Centre Region Pennsylvania Youth Survey:
The Pennsylvania Youth
Survey has been administered to State College Area School
District 6th, 8th, 10th, and 12th graders every other year since
2000. Recent survey data is available
Statewide PAYS data is
Findings related to
substance abuse show that Pennsylvania students use alcohol more than
any other drug, nearly twice as much as tobacco. In fact, Pennsylvania
students’ reported use of alcohol over their lifetime is anywhere from
7-11% higher than the national average. With regard to high-risk
drinking (five or more drinks in a row), Pennsylvania’s 12th graders
show an occurrence rate higher than the national average. One good sign
from the survey is that usage among 6th graders has dropped slightly
over the years.
Background of PAYS
Since 1989, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
has conducted a survey of secondary school students on their behavior,
attitudes and knowledge concerning alcohol, tobacco, other drugs, and
violence. The Pennsylvania Youth Survey (PAYS) of 6th,
8th, 10th and 12th grade public school
students is conducted every two years. The findings from the 2007 PAYS
build upon the data gathered during the first survey which was
administered in 2001, as well as the Generation at Risk survey, a
biennial study of drug use prevalence rates that was conducted from 1989
through 1997. The effort is sponsored and conducted by the Pennsylvania
Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD).
PAYS is based on the
Communities That Care Youth Survey, which was developed from the
work of Dr. J. David Hawkins and Dr. Richard F. Catalano. The survey is
designed to identify levels of risk factors related to problem behaviors
such as ATOD use and to identify the levels of protective factors that
help guard against those behaviors. In addition to measuring risk and
protective factors, the survey also measures the actual
prevalence of drug use, violence, and other antisocial behaviors among
surveyed youth. PAYS, which is an anonymous and voluntary survey which
asks approximately 120 questions, is administered in the school setting.
The data gathered in the PAYS serve
two primary needs. First, the results provide school administrators,
state agency directors, legislators and others with critical information
concerning the changes in patterns of the use and abuse of these harmful
substances and behaviors. Second, the survey assesses risk factors
that are related to these behaviors and the protective factors
that help guard against them. This information allows community leaders
to direct prevention resources to areas where they are likely to have
the greatest impact.
Validity of PAYS
To ensure the validity of
the PAYS, more than 14,300 students reflective of varying urban,
suburban, and rural demographics were randomly selected to participate
in the 2005 survey analysis. Pennsylvania outcomes were then measured
against national outcomes in the “Monitoring the Future” study conducted
by the University of Michigan. Findings show that PAYS has high
Understanding PAYS Findings
What are risk factors?
Risk factors are elements in a young
person’s environment that increase the likelihood of he or she engaging
in problem behaviors. Problem behaviors are
specific behaviors that can adversely affect a young person growing into
a caring, healthy adult. Some examples of risk factors are the
availability of drugs and alcohol in the community, family conflict,
academic failure, and antisocial behavior. Research has identified 20
risk factors that can reliably predict these five adolescent
Dropping out of school
Among the 20 risk factors shown
by research to put youth at risk, the most prevalent in the Centre
Family management problems
Low neighborhood attachment
Low school attachment
Transition and mobility
Protective factors are
those factors in a young person’s environment that increase the
likelihood that the young person will develop healthy, positive
attitudes and behaviors. Examples of protective factors
include intelligence, good social skills, family involvement, and
positive messages that are communicated to youth by their family,
school, and community. Protective factors help buffer risk factors so
that adolescent can grow up healthy despite the presence of risk factors
in their lives. Prevalent protective factors in the Centre Region are:
Belief in the moral order
School opportunity for pro-social
Family rewards for pro-social behavior
Once a community has
prioritized the protective factors they want to enhance and the risk
factors they want to reduce, they then implement tested effective
programs designed to enhance specific protective factors and reduce
specific risk factors. This allows communities use data about the youth
in their communities and reduce risk factors and enhance protective
factors in a systematic and targeted way. Here in the Centre Region, we
have supported and/or implemented these programs:
CENTRE REGION YOUTH SURVEY SUMMARY
Within the Communities that Care® model, national scientific research
identifying risk factors that lead to health and behavior problems and
protective factors that help youth deal with these influences are
combined with local survey information into a public health model upon
which specific intervention and prevention programs can be built. This
is not a “quick-fix” model, but sustainable, community-wide change.
STEP 1: INCREASE OUR UNDERSTANDING OF CENTRE REGION
(STATE COLLEGE) YOUTH ISSUES THROUGH THE YOUTH SURVEY AND OTHER
BUILDING ON STRENGTHS: Our youth scored better than matched samples on
all ten protective factors of the Pennsylvania Youth Survey:
More than half (58%) of our youth attend religious services or
activities regularly (compared with 50% nationally and 56% for
Our youth received a score of 62 for important social skills (compared
with a score of 50 nationally and 55 for Pennsylvania youth).
Most feel safe in their schools and communities
Each year, our 15- and 16-year olds do over
12,000 hours of community service.
Approximately 80-90% of high school students participate in athletics
and other activities.
We have a very low rate of adolescent suicide.
Many of our youth have been recognized nationally and regionally for their academic,
technical, vocational, artistic, and musical achievement.
In the 2002 Kids Count Report, our county was rated as "Performs much
better than average," and "Performs better than average," on 15 of the
19 variables covered in the study.
B. ADDRESSING RISK
Many students report that they generally don’t feel attached to school.
Our youth received a score of 46 for school commitment (compared with a
score of 50 nationally and 47 for Pennsylvania youth).
Youth feel their community neighborhoods change too quickly. Our
youth received a score of 53 for community transitions and mobility
(compared with a score of 50 nationally and 46 for Pennsylvania youth).
—Many (83%) of 17- and 18-year olds reporting using alcohol
at least once, with 55% reporting monthly use.
—About half (55%) of 14- and 15-year-olds report having at
least one drink of alcohol, with 18% reporting monthly use.
—About a third (32%) of 11- and 12-year-olds report having
at least one drink of alcohol, with 8% reporting monthly use.
—One-fifth (20%) of 17- and 18-year-olds report at least
one drinking-and-driving incident.
Our youth are accepting of antisocial behavior by peers.
While only a few students (6%) say they have attacked someone with
intent to harm in the past, it still poses an alarming statistic for our
STEP 2: PRIORITIZE ACTIONS BASED ON CURRENT RISK AND PROTECTIVE FACTORS.
WE WILL FOCUS ON ACHIEVING THE FOLLOWING OBJECTIVES TO STRENGTHEN THE
PROTECTIVE FACTORS AND REDUCE THE RISK FACTORS REPORTED BY OUR YOUTH.
Decrease the effects of transition and mobility.
Increase neighborhood attachment.
Improve family management.
Increase commitment to school.
STEP 3: SELECT AND IMPLEMENT PROGRAMS TO STRATEGICALLY ACHIEVE THESE
OBJECTIVES. THE FOLLOWING PROGRAMS WILL BE IMPLEMENTED TO ADDRESS:
TRANSITION AND MOBILITY/LOW NEIGHBORHOOD ATTACHMENT
—McGruff Safe Houses
—Summer Library Program
—Families Who Care: Guiding Good Choices
—Living in Harmony Home School Project
—Big Brother/Big Sister (JUMP Program)
LOW COMMITMENT TO SCHOOL
—Summer Reading and Math Program
—Living in Harmony Home School Project
By supporting these programs and by initiating others, the Care
Partnership in the Centre Region is increasing the identified protective
factors and reducing the risk factors our youth face every day.
By working together, we will reach our goal of a
community built on respect, honesty, responsibility, and caring
It is important that everyone in the State
College area be involved. Our children are our future leaders. Together
we can make a difference in their lives, and ultimately, in our