Background Engagement in risk behaviours may pose a significant threat to health if involvement spans multiple behaviours. The asset model suggests that contextual aspects of young people's lives, such as factors related to family, school and community, serve as a protective function against health risk behaviours.
Methods A risk-taking index was created from the English health behaviour in school-aged children study on 15 years olds, substance use and sexual activity. Using a multinomial regression, potential asset variables relating to school, family, peers, community and family affluence were tested for their association with levels of risk behaviours.
Results Sense of neighbourhood belonging, strong school belonging and parental involvement in decision-making about leisure time were related to lower engagement in health risk behaviours. A weaker sense of family belonging was associated with increased risk behaviours if connectedness with teachers was also low. Factors related to school and community played a greater role in adolescent participation in health-related risk behaviours than family-related factors, including family affluence.
Conclusions Feelings of safety and belonging in the out-of-home settings of adolescents were positively associated with reduced risk behaviours, and indicate the importance of the wider community alongside parents and school as protective assets for health.