Background: Strong parental monitoring is thought to protect adolescents from engaging in health risk behaviors. However, differing levels of economic development and regulatory systems suggest that findings from Western countries may not generalize to Southeast Asia. This study analyzed the relationship between parental monitoring and health risk behaviors among adolescents in nine Southeast Asian countries.
Methods: Cross-sectional data for 52,803 adolescents (aged 11–18 years; 51.4% female) were obtained from the World Health Organization’s Global School-Based Student Health Survey. Data collected between 2007 and 2015 was available for Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, The Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, Timor-Leste, and Laos. Univariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses were conducted to assess the relationships between parental monitoring, sexual risk behaviors, and substance use. Age, gender, country differences in sexual risk behaviors, and substance use were also examined.
Results: The results revealed that adolescents who reported regular parental monitoring had a lower probability of engaging in sexual risk behaviors and substance use. Using alcohol, prohibited substances, and tobacco was significantly associated with engaging in sexual risk behaviors. Males and older participants were more likely than females and younger participants to report all forms of health risk behavior. Significant differences existed in risk behavior between countries, with participants in Timor-Leste the most likely to engage in most forms of health risk behavior.
Conclusion: We considered the results in the context of the economic and regulatory environments in each country. In developing countries, particularly those with relatively strong economic growth and relaxed drug and alcohol regulations, parental monitoring, and other factors such as culture, education, and the health system play a crucial role in protecting adolescents from risky behaviors.