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25-03-2016 | Empirical Research | Uitgave 5/2016

Journal of Youth and Adolescence 5/2016

Gender Differences in the Factors Explaining Risky Behavior Online

Journal of Youth and Adolescence > Uitgave 5/2016
Hagit Sasson, Gustavo Mesch


In searching for the social and cognitive antecedents of risky online behaviors, some studies have relied on the theory of planned behavior. According to the theory, three components serve as predictors of a given behavior—attitudes toward the behavior (beliefs that people hold about a given behavior), subjective norms (perceptions of what significant others think about the behavior) and perceived behavior control (perceptions about the ease or difficulty of engaging in a particular behavior). However, none of these studies considered the possibility that these factors work differently for boys and girls. We constructed models of the possible antecedents (attitudes, subjective norms and perceived behavior control) of risky behavior online and tested them using a representative sample of 495 sixth to eleventh grade students (46 % female) in a large city in Israel. We measured risky behavior online with items indicating the frequency of posting personal details, sending an insulting message and meeting face-to-face with a stranger met online. Structural equation modeling revealed that peers’ subjective norms (beliefs that friends approve of engaging in risky online behaviors), parents’ subjective norms (beliefs that parents accept involvement in risky online behaviors) and perceived behavior control were related to boys’ risky behavior online, whereas for girls, only parents’ subjective norms had such an association. Expanding the models to include other factors underscored that family factors were most strongly associated with girls’ risky behavior online.

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