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25-04-2020 | Empirical Research | Uitgave 8/2020

Journal of Youth and Adolescence 8/2020

Adolescents’ First Choice for Help: Distinguishing Characteristics of Youth Who Select a Friend, a Parent, or No One

Journal of Youth and Adolescence > Uitgave 8/2020
Heather A. Sears
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When adolescents encounter problems, many prefer to seek help from a friend or a parent and some are reluctant to seek help from anyone. Yet information is sparse about how youth who choose each of these options differ from one another, including the proportions who select each help option consistently across personal and interpersonal problems or the extent to which they endorse characteristics related to help seeking. To address this gap, the proportions of adolescents who selected a friend, a parent, or no one as their first choice for help with one personal problem (feeling depressed) and three interpersonal problems (problems with a parent, a good friend, and a boyfriend/girlfriend) and the proportions who selected each help option consistently across these problems were examined. Youth in the three groups for each problem were also compared on characteristics linked to help seeking (gender, self-concealment, self-disclosure, perceived support, and school community). Participants were 488 Canadian adolescents (56% girls; Grades 9–12) who completed a survey at school. A majority of youth chose a friend for help with each problem and a substantial minority chose one help option consistently across problems. For each problem, adolescents in the Friend group and those in the Parent group differed on composites of specific characteristics, and adolescents in the No One group differed from those in the other groups on multiple characteristics. The results highlight the complexity associated with adolescents choosing a help option and draw attention to specific groups of youth who merit further examination.

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