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Decision-making under risk---the case of adolescent smoking.

Rudisill, A. Caroline (2009) Decision-making under risk---the case of adolescent smoking. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis examines decision-making about risks under conditions of uncertainty. Research specifically studies adolescents and smoking to uncover which information sources play influential roles in forming smoking risk perceptions. Findings aim to offer policy-related, theoretical and methodological meaning This study looks at two key issues. First, it links risk perceptions to smoking decisions to highlight the motivation for understanding the predictors of risk perceptions. Second, research investigates how individuals use information sources (ex. parents, doctors, peers, health warning messages) employing a Bayesian decision-making model. This thesis performs empirical analysis using The Canadian Youth Smoking Survey (2002) (19,018 respondents, 10-15 years) and The U.S. National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2004) (18,294 respondents, 12-17 years). Across both datasets, adolescents' risk perceptions and likelihood of having never smoking a cigarette were found to be positively related. However, smoking behaviors were never found to significantly predict risk perceptions once controlling for endogeneity between risk perceptions and behaviors. This suggests that adolescents rely on exogenous information sources about smoking risks rather than personal experiences to form perceptions of smoking risks. From a policy perspective, medical professionals talking with adolescent patients about smoking, parents' smoking, societal smoking prevalence (more than peers' smoking), awareness of tobacco package warning labels and knowledge of school smoking rules (but not the rules themselves) were found to predict adolescents' risk perceptions. From a theoretical perspective, this thesis alters the Bayesian model to include environmental and social effects. It also finds support for the role of affect heuristics in decision making involving risks. Findings also point to evidence of principal-agency relationships between medical professionals and adolescents. Analysis also highlights how spatial proximity impacts the credibility adolescents attach to behavioral examples and opinions regarding smoking. From a methodological standpoint, evidence suggests that adolescents' expressions of their assessment of risk depend upon elicitation methodology used and that work focusing on predictors of risk perceptions should include direct (ex. parents discussing risks) and indirect (ex. societal smoking prevalence) sources of information.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Health Sciences, Public Health
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses
Departments > Social Policy

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