The relationships between economic scarcity, concrete mindset and risk behavior: A study of nicaraguan adolescents (Open Access)

  • Authors:
    Pilar Aguilar Barriga, Amparo Caballero, Verónica Sevillano, Itziar Fernández, Dolores Muñoz, Pilar Carrera
  • Publication:
    International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
  • Year: 2020


Background: Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in Latin America, with an extremely low human development index (HDI). Fifty-two percent of the Nicaraguan population are children and adolescents under 18 years of age. Nicaraguan adolescents present several risk behaviors (such as teenage pregnancies, consumption of alcohol, tobacco, cannabis). Our study examines the links between risk behaviors, fatalism, real economic scarcity, and concrete construal level for adolescents with low and middle-low socioeconomic status in Nicaragua. Methods: Nicaraguan adolescents (N = 834) from schools located in especially vulnerable areas (low economic status) or in neighborhoods with middle-low social class completed several scales and questions to evaluate fatalism (SFC—social fatalism scale), construal level (BIF) and their past and future risk behaviors (smoking cigarettes, smoking cannabis, unsafe sex, and alcohol consumption). Results: We identified that the poorest individuals who maintained a concrete style of thinking had the highest rates of past and future risk behaviors. This vulnerable group also reported the highest levels of fatalism, i.e., negative attitudes and feelings of helplessness. Encouragingly, the adolescents who were able to maintain an abstract mindset reported healthier past and future habits and lower fatalism, even when they belonged to the lowest social status. In the middle-low economic group, the construal level was not as relevant to maintaining healthy habits, as adolescents reported similar rates of past and future risk behavior at both construal levels. Conclusions: All these results support the importance of considering construal level when studying vulnerable populations and designing risk prevention programs.

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