The Role of Anxiety/Depression in the Development of Youth High Risk Behaviors: An Examination of Two Competing Hypotheses in a Sample of African-American, Single Mother Families

  • Emily P. Garai
  • Rex Forehand
  • Christina J. M. Colletti
  • Aaron Rakow


The role of anxiety/depression in the progression of youth externalizing problems to future high risk behaviors has been disputed in the literature. Mixed support exists for a multiple problem hypothesis (i.e., co-occurring anxiety/depression leads to more high risk behaviors) and a protective hypothesis (i.e., anxiety/depression buffers this progression). The present study compared these two hypotheses in a sample of 124 African-American single mother families by examining mother report of externalizing problems and anxiety/depression at an initial timepoint and youth report of high risk behaviors fifteen months later. Results support the multiple problem hypothesis: In the context of high levels of externalizing problems, high levels of anxiety/depression were associated with more youth engaging in high risk behavior across the 15 month follow-up than were low levels of anxiety/depression. The findings suggest it is important to consider multiple domains of youth problem behaviors to conceptualize and prevent high risk behaviors.


Externalizing problems Internalizing problems High risk behavior 



This research was supported by the William T. Grant Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Appreciation is expressed to Gene Brody, Edward Morse, and Patricia Simon Morse.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emily P. Garai
    • 1
  • Rex Forehand
    • 1
  • Christina J. M. Colletti
    • 1
  • Aaron Rakow
    • 1
  1. 1.Psychology DepartmentThe University of VermontBurlingtonU.S.A.

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