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Adolescent males are most likely to use a condom during intercourse if they are concerned about getting the virus that causes AIDS or if their partners encourage condom use, the results of a new study suggest.

The study, which was presented at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association in Boston this summer by a team of researchers from Wheaton College in Massachusetts and from the Urban Institute in Washington, found that "pregnancy prevention does not motivate condom use directly" among adolescent males.

The study, which was based on a survey of 1,263 sexually active adolescents between the ages of 15 and 19, found males were dissuaded from using condoms if they felt their use would reduce their sexual pleasure.

The paper concluded by calling for more education programs that stress condom use. These programs should emphasize AIDS and should encourage women to insist that their partners use condoms consistently, the study said.

Maternal employment does not appear to significantly affect whether or how much an adolescent uses alcohol, tobacco, or marijuana, four researchers from Wayne State University in Detroit have found.

Their study, presented at the APA meeting, was based on a survey of 161 students in a suburban-Detroit high school. About half the students came from homes where their mothers worked full time.

According to the study, students from both groups were almost equally likely to drink or to smoke tobacco or marijuana. While students with mothers who held full-time jobs reported using marijuana more than half a year before students who came from homes in which the mother worked part time or not at all, the latter group was more likely to smoke or drink at a younger age.

Findings from this study seem to contradict the results of a report that appeared in Pediatrics last year. In that study, "latchkey children" were twice as likely as their unsupervised peers to drink alcohol or to smoke, and nearly twice as likely to use marijuana. (See Education Week, Sept. 13, 1989.)

The first study of street children in 10 years that did not rely on shelters or clinics paints a bleak picture of adolescents who have run away or have been thrown out of their homes.

The study, completed by Marjorie J. Robertson, a researcher affiliated with the University of California at Berkeley, found that nearly one-third of the 93 teenagers interviewed had engaged in prostitution and about half had sold drugs in order to survive on the streets.

Ms. Robertson, who presented her results at the APA meeting, suggested that for these teenagers, "homelessness was just the latest episode in a long history of residential instability and family disruption that for many had begun as early as age 5 or 6."

About half abused alcohol or had attempted suicide, she said, and nearly 40 percent were drug abusers. One in six identified shelters as their main sleeping place, with the rest identifying abandoned buildings, vehicles, and the streets as where they lived, Ms. Roberston found.

Abused children, especially if they are black, are more likely to become involved with the juvenile-justice system than their non-abused peers, a researcher at Indiana University has found.

Reporting on the results of her ongoing study at the APA meeting, Cathy Spatz Widom said that 26 percent of the 774 abused children that she has been following since 1967-71 have records as juvenile delinquents 20 years later. In contrast, only 17 percent of the 667 non-abused children who were in a control group had gotten into trouble with the law two decades later.

Ms. Spatz Widom said that 51 percent of the black males who were abused had criminal records after 20 years, almost twice the rate of white children who were abused. And children who were neglected--as opposed to being physically abused--were the most likely to become violent juvenile offenders, she said.

Common to most of these juvenile offenders who had been abused as children, she said, was the belief that they were the victims, and not the perpetrators of a crime. "We have little understanding of the emotional or developmental scars that may exist," she said.

In a related presentation at the APA meeting, a law professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo predicted that there would be an "epidemic" in juvenile homicides during the rest of this decade.

Charles Patrick Ewing, who is credited with formulating the legal arguments for battered women who claim they kill their partners in "psychological" self-defense, said the number of homicides annually committed by juveniles could triple or quadruple from the current rate of nearly 2,000 a year.

Certain trends, said Mr. Ewing, support his prediction, including the growing accessibility of guns, the violence related to drug dealing, the growing poverty rate, and a growing juvenile population.

But the most important indicator, he said, is the rising child-abuse rate.

"Most of these kids who are so brutal have been brutalized themselves," he said.--EF

Vol. 10, Issue 1

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