Theory Development

10. Mechanisms

Exercise 6

Use your background knowledge to help find mechanisms. For instance, you discover that smoking is a good predictor of likelihood of adolescent pregnancy. What might the mechanism be? Several things associated with smoking might also be mechanisms that linked to adolescent pregnancy. What might some of them be?

In this exercise consider smoking as a good predictor of adolescent pregnancy – in the list of possible mechanisms identify which are good choices for explaining the relationship and which are poor choices.

The Mechanisms are: Age discrepancy in relationships; Bad Grades in School; Drug use; Social Awkwardness; Race; Peer pressure; Lack of parental supervision; Poverty

Good choices

  • Lack of parental supervision. More likely to have access to and try high risk behaviors such as smoking, substance use, sexual activity.
  • Peer pressure. Peer pressure affects decisions related to high risk behavior including smoking, sexual activity, substance use, etc.
  • Drug use. Drugs are often exchanged for sex, and use involves social settings in which deviance is normalized B where risk behaviors including smoking and sexual activity are not considered high risk.
  • Age discrepancy in relationships. Older boyfriends provide access to cigarettes and a setting in which more adult behavior is expected.

Poor Choices

  • Bad Grades in School. Smokers do get worse grades. But in themselves, grades are not a cause of risky sexual activity. But Grades may be associated with membership in peer groups which accept risky sexual behavior, with a need for finding other ways of securing status.
  • Social Awkwardness. In itself, this is not a good explanation, but in an individual case it may be part of a pattern of social relationships in which sexual activity is a means of gaining acceptance.
  • Race. Although this is predictive, it is not an explanation. The norms and expectations of friends, families, and boyfriends are likely to provide the explanation, and these are what vary by race.
  • Poverty. Although there is a high association between poverty rates and adolescent pregnancy, this is a predictor rather than a cause. Many other factors that are causes are also associated with poverty, such as absence of a father, low educational aspirations, presence of sisters who had adolescent pregnancies, and so forth. These are causes for which there are direct mechanisms relating to choices, attitudes, and control of behavior.