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Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública

On-line version ISSN 1680-5348Print version ISSN 1020-4989


VITTETOE, Kenneth  and  PACARDO RESEARCH GROUP et al. Behavioral problems and tobacco use among adolescents in Central America and the Dominican Republic. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 2002, vol.11, n.2, pp.76-82. ISSN 1680-5348.

Objectives. The purpose of this study was to examine the association between behavioral problems and tobacco use among adolescent students in six countries of Central America and in the Dominican Republic. Methods. Data were drawn from a multinational collaborative study that included questionnaire surveys of between 451 and 1 170 school-attending adolescents in each of the seven countries studied. Assessments were based on an adapted, Spanish-language version of the Drug Use Screening Inventory (DUSI). The conditional form of logistic regression was employed for analysis, matching students on type of school and area, with further statistical adjustments for sex, age, and selected risk factors. Results. Occurrence of tobacco use was observed to vary dramatically from country to country. Nonetheless, for the combined group of countries, the estimated odds of tobacco use in youths at the highest levels of behavioral problems was more than five times that for youths at the lowest levels, after controlling for sex, age, lack of participation in recreational activities, level of irritability, and levels of problems with school, family, and mental health. Country- specific analyses show that youths at the highest levels of behavioral problems have a consistently greater occurrence of tobacco use as compared to youths at the lowest levels of behavioral problems. Conclusions. These findings are concordant with prior studies on tobacco use among adolescents with behavioral problems. Although the magnitude of observed associations varied according to the country of residence, the strength of these associations and their significance by conventional standards were observed in nearly all the countries sampled. This is the first study in these seven countries on potentially causal relationships such as these. More research is needed to augment our knowledge regarding the observed cross-country differences and ultimately to develop, implement, and evaluate effective tobacco preventive intervention programs.

Keywords : Smoking; social behavior disorders; adolescents; Central America; Dominican Republic.

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