The main goal of this chapter is to present theoretical and empirical background of prevention efforts, among Polish youth, based on positive relationship building in the context of a positive youth development concept. Positive relationships with important adults (parents, teachers, natural mentors) and social relationships associated with youth participation in constructive leisure time activities are connected with lower risk of a variety of problem behaviors such as substance use, violence, delinquency, school problems, and sexual risky behaviors (Nation et al., 2003; Zimmerman et al., 2013).
The content of the chapter builds upon research that explores the protective factors associated with adolescent problem behaviors. The importance of positive factors in prevention research is evidenced by the burgeoning research on resilience (Borucka & Ostaszewski, 2008; Fergus & Zimmerman, 2005; Luthar, 2006; Mazur et al., 2008; Rutter, 2012; Werner, 2005) and the positive youth development movement (Catalano, Berglund, Ryan, Lonczak, & Hawkins, 2004a; Lerner, Von Eye, Lerner, Lewin-Bizan, & Bowers, 2010). Contrary to this direction, until recently in Poland most research on aetiology of youth risk/problem behaviors was focused on risk factors associated with substance use and abuse. Only a few researchers in Poland have studied relationships between positive factors and adolescent risk behaviors (Bobrowski, 2002; 2003; Kwiatkowski, 2009; Mazur et al. 2008, 2009; Okulicz-Kozaryn, 2010; Ostaszewski, 2009, 2014; Ostaszewski, Bobrowski, Borucka & Pisarska, 2002; Pyżalski, 2012).
Results of the Warsaw Adolescent Study (Ostaszewski, 2014), presented in this chapter, address an existing gap in prevention science as observed in Poland. While doing so, the chapter provides a review of the current status of prevention science in Poland by exploring the role of positive youth relationships in preventing risky behaviors. The chapter is organized in three sections: section 1 discusses barriers to implementing well-informed prevention activities and current challenges of science-based prevention in Poland; section 2 contains a literature review that explores the associations between positive relationships and youth risk behaviors; and section 3 presents results of Warsaw Adolescent Study with a focus on associations between youth risk behavior and psychosocial positive factors.