Psychosocial Determinants of Mental Health and Risk Behaviours in Adolescents

  •  Marina Carvalho    
  •  Margarida de Matos    
  •  . Social Adventure Project Team    


This study aimed at identifying the prevalence of emotional problems among children and adolescents in Portugal. Gender, developmental aspects, their psychosocial determinants, and the time trends over 8 years were also explored.

The three waves of a cross-sectional survey obtained from the HBSC nationally representative samples of 10-17 year old children and adolescents in 1998, 2002, and 2006, were used. Specific composite indexes included emotional and somatic symptoms, substances’ use, demographic and psychosocial factors.

Girls reported more emotional symptoms, and boys reported more substances’ use. Emotional symptoms and substances’ use increased with age, in contrast school commitment and perception of safe neighbourhood decreased with age. With age, the communication with the family tends to become more difficult, while communication with the friends tends to become easier. Along the three waves, substances’ use and emotional symptoms have shown a general pattern of decrease.

Results were discussed according to literature and their consequences for the understanding of emotional problems and substance use in childhood and adolescence.

Mental health promotion includes both the prevention of emotional problems and risk behaviours; determinants include individual factors and a range of psychosocial factors. Mental health problems have a huge impact on adolescents’ well-being; however it is often a poorer area of intervention in school based interventions. Gender differences are highlighted.

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