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Open Access Research article

Personal values and involvement in problem behaviors among Bahamian early adolescents: a cross-sectional study

Hongjie Liu1*, Shuli Yu1, Lesley Cottrell2, Sonja Lunn3, Lynette Deveaux3, Nanika V Brathwaite3, Sharon Marshall1, Xiaoming Li1 and Bonita Stanton1

Author Affiliations

1 The Carman and Ann Adams Department of Pediatrics, Wayne State UniversitySchool of Medicine, 4201 St. Antoine Street, UHC-6D, Detroit, Michigan 48201, USA

2 Pediatrics, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia, USA

3 Office of AIDS, Bahamas Ministry of Health, Nassau, Bahamas

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BMC Public Health 2007, 7:135  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-7-135

Published: 2 July 2007



Few studies, particularly in developing countries, have explored the relationship between adolescents and parental values with adolescent problem behaviors. The objectives of the study are to (1) describe adolescents' personal values, their problem behaviors, and the relationships thereof according to gender and (2) examine the relationship between parental values, adolescent values, and adolescents' problem behaviors among sixth-grade students and one of their parents.


The data used in these analyses were from the baseline assessment of a school-based HIV risk reduction intervention being conducted and evaluated among sixth grade students and one of their parents across 9 elementary schools in The Bahamas. Personal values were measured by the Portrait Values Questionnaire (PVQ). Seven reported problem behaviors were queried from the students, which included physical fight with a friend, drank alcohol, beer, or wine, smoked a cigarette, pushed or carried any drugs, carried a gun, knife, screwdriver or cutlass to use as a weapon, had sex and used marijuana or other illicit drugs over the past 6 months. Multilevel modeling for binary data was performed to estimate the associations between adolescent and parental values and adolescent problem behaviors.


Among 785 students, 47% of the students reported at least one problem behavior. More boys (54%) reported having one or more problem behaviors than girls (41%, p < 0.01). Boys compared to girls expressed a higher level of self-enhancement (means score: 36.5 vs. 35.1; p = 0.03), while girls expressed a higher level of self-transcendence (42.3 vs. 40.7; p = 0.03). The results of multilevel modeling indicates that boys with a higher level of self-enhancement and girls with a higher level of openness to change and a lower level of conservation were more likely to report engagement in problem behaviors. Only two parental values (self-transcendence and conservation) were low or modestly correlated with youth' values (openness to change and self-enhancement). Parental-reported values documented limited association on adolescents' reported values and behaviors.


In designing interventions for reducing adolescents' problem behaviors, it may be important to understand the values associated with specific problem behaviors. Further exploration regarding lack of association between adolescent and parental values and problem behaviors is needed.