Social work researchers and practitioners alike have highlighted the utility of ecological frameworks, including the ecodevelopmental framework, in developing a fuller understanding of the antecedents of adolescent drug use and sexual risk behaviors (Cordova et al., 2014; Hawkins, Catalano, & Miller, 1992; Williams, Ayers, Garvey, Marsiglia, & Castro, 2012). From this perspective, adolescents are imbedded in interrelated and interconnected systems that influence and are influenced by the youth over time. From proximal to distal, these systems include the micro-, meso-, exo-, macro-, and chronosystems. Additionally, developmental and social interaction theories are incorporated. Although social work researchers have shown the ways in which ecodevelopmental factors influence drug use and sexual risk behaviors in adolescents, relatively few social work researchers have examined these factors utilizing longitudinal designs or with nationally representative samples. The proposed symposium advances social work research and practice in this regard.
In the first paper, we examine developmental trajectories of parent support and family conflict and their links to HIV/STI sexual risk behaviors and STIs among a sample of predominately African American youth in the Midwest, United States. In the second study, we examine developmental trajectories of parent-adolescent discrepancies of family functioning and their links to HIV/STI risk behaviors among a sample of recent Hispanic immigrants in the Southeast, United States. In the third study, using a nationally representative sample, we identify subgroups of pregnant adolescents (ages 12-17) on the basis of variables measuring the past 12-month and past 30-day use of an extensive array of licit and illicit substances.
The proposed symposium advances social work research and practice in several important ways: First, the use of novel statistical approaches, including latent class analysis (LCA) and latent class growth analysis (LCGA), to better understand adolescent drug use and sexual risk behaviors help move forward social work research. Second, the studies complement one another such that two studies utilize longitudinal data, while one study uses nationally representative data. Third, whereas the majority of studies have relied solely on one report (e.g., adolescent or parent), one study employs an innovative approach by examining parent-adolescent discrepancy scores. Social work research, practice and policy implications will be discussed in the context of ecodevelopmental theory.