The influence of social adjustment on normative and risky health behaviors in emerging adults with spina bifida.

Caitlin B. Murray*, Jaclyn M. Lennon, Katie A. Devine, Grayson N. Holmbeck, Kimberly Klages, Lauren M. Potthoff

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


To understand the rates of normative and risky health behaviors and the influence of prior and current social adjustment on health risk behaviors in emerging adults with spina bifida (SB). These data are part of a larger longitudinal study of youth with SB; at ages 18-19, 50 emerging adults with SB and 60 typically developing (TD) youth participated. Social adjustment was measured at ages 12/13, 14/15, 16/17, and 18/19. Substance use and sexual activity were self-reported by emerging adults. The SB group reported similar frequencies (i.e., number of days in the previous month) of cigarette and marijuana use. Fewer individuals with SB reported initiation of both alcohol use (i.e., ever used) and sexual activity (i.e., ever had sex) compared to TD peers. The SB group also reported less frequent alcohol use and fewer sexual partners. Better social adjustment during early adolescence (ages 12/13) predicted more frequent alcohol use and a greater number of sexual partners for all youth. Social adjustment also mediated the effect of group status on health risk behaviors. Emerging adults with SB lag behind TD peers in terms of normative initiation of alcohol use and sexual activity. However, this population participates in some risky health behaviors at similar rates compared to their TD peers (e.g., smoking). Youths' health risk behaviors may be influenced by their level of social adjustment. A challenge for future interventions for this population will be finding methods of improving social functioning without increasing the rate of health risk behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1153-1163
Number of pages11
JournalHealth psychology : official journal of the Division of Health Psychology, American Psychological Association
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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