Trends in the Well-Being of America's Children and Youth, 2000. SD 3.6 Peer Attitudes Toward Alcohol, Marijuana, Cocaine, and Smoking

01/01/2000

Drug use is correlated with attitudes and beliefs about drugs, both in terms of perceived health risks and the level of peer disapproval.56 As children reach adolescence, peer influences on personal behavior can take on increasing importance in determining the use of drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes.

The majority of high school seniors have long reported peer disapproval of drug and alcohol use and cigarette smoking, as reflected in their responses to questions of the level of disapproval they would receive from their peers for (1) taking one to two drinks nearly every day, (2) smoking marijuana even occasionally (as opposed to trying it once), (3) taking cocaine even occasionally (as opposed to trying it once), and (4) smoking one or more packs of cigarettes per day (see Table SD 3.6).57

Among 12th graders, peer disapproval of drinking (one to two drinks nearly every day) and smoking marijuana (even occasionally) reached highs of 78 and 79 percent, respectively, in 1992, before declining to 72 and 62 percent by 1999 (see Figure SD 3.6). Peer disapproval of smoking cigarettes (one or more packs per day) has declined since 1992, although disapproval levels had been relatively stable prior to that time. In 1999, 71 percent of 12th graders reported peer disapproval of smoking a pack or more of cigarettes per day. Peer disapproval of cocaine use (even occasionally) increased from 87 percent in 1986 to 95 percent in 1991 and has remained at about this level. Cocaine use commands the highest level of peer disapproval for every year shown (see Table SD 3.6 and Figure SD 3.6).

Differences by Gender. Male high school seniors have consistently reported lower levels of peer disapproval of drinking than have their female peers. In 1999, 64 percent of males reported peer disapproval of drinking, compared with 79 percent of females. Male students also report somewhat lower peer disapproval of smoking cigarettes and marijuana.

Differences by Race. For 1999, rates of disapproval for drug use were generally similar for black and white 12th graders for marijuana and for cocaine use. Group differences are apparent for disapproval of smoking (81 percent disapproval among black compared with 69 percent among white students) and disapproval of drinking (79 percent disapproval among black compared with 70 percent among white students).

 

56 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 1996. Preliminary Estimates from the 1995 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse. Rockville, Md.: Public Health Service. Also see U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, National Center for Education, 1993, Student Reports of Availability, Peer Approval, and Use of Alcohol, Marijuana, and Other Drugs at School: Statistics in Brief, June 1997.
57 All references to drinking, marijuana and cocaine use, and smoking cigarettes throughout this text use the parameters for these activities as defined by the Monitoring the Future questionnaire.

 

Table SD 3.6 Percentage of 12th-grade students in the United States who report that peers would not approve of their using alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, or cigarettes: Selected years, 1980-1999

  1980 1985 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999
Disapprove of taking one to two drinks nearly every day
Total 71 75 79 77 78 77 76 73 73 72 72 72
Gender  
Male 61 69 71 68 69 68 67 65 63 63 63 64
Female 79 81 87 85 85 85 83 80 83 79 82 79
Race  
White 70 75 77 77 77 76 76 72 71 71 71 70
Black 76 82 85 80 81 80 78 74 77 74 75 79
Disapprove of smoking marijuana even occasionally
Total 51 64 76 76 79 74 69 65 63 60 60 62
Gender  
Male 49 64 73 73 78 72 63 62 59 57 56 58
Female 52 65 80 78 80 75 74 69 67 63 66 65
Race  
White 50 63 74 75 78 73 68 64 62 58 60 61
Black 59 72 89 86 84 76 70 69 66 67 67 63
Disapprove of taking cocaine even occasionallya
Total 94 95 94 94 94 94 93 91 92 92
Gender  
Male 92 93 93 92 91 92 90 89 90 90
Female 96 96 96 96 96 95 96 93 95 94
Race  
White 95 96 96 95 94 95 93 91 92 93
Black 92 97 91 89 94 92 93 95 94 91
Disapprove of smoking one or more packs of cigarettes per day
Total 74 74 75 74 76 72 72 69 69 69 69 71
Gender  
Male 73 72 73 72 76 68 67 65 65 65 66 67
Female 76 76 77 77 77 75 77 74 73 71 73 76
Race  
White 75 73 73 72 75 71 69 67 66 64 65 69
Black 74 81 87 88 82 80 83 81 82 83 81 81

a The question regarding cocaine use was not included prior to 1986.
Sources: Johnston, Bachman, & O’Malley, 1980, 1985, 1990-1999 (prepublication tables), Questionnaire Form 4. 1980-1985: items E08A, E08C, E08G. 1986-1987: items E08A, E08C, E08H, E08I. 1988-1999: items E07A, E07C, E07H, E07I. Data based on one of six questionnaire forms, with a resulting sample size one-sixth of the total sample size for each year.

 

Figure SD 3.6 Percentage of 12th-grade students in the United States who report that peers would not approve of their using alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, or cigarettes: 1980-1999

Note: Figure reports students’ perceived peer nonapproval rates of use of various drugs: alcohol (taking one to two drinks nearly every day), marijuana (smoking even occasionally), cocaine (using even occasionally), and smoking (one or more packs of cigarettes every day).
Sources: Johnston, Bachman, & O’Malley, Questionnaire Form 4. 1980-1999: items E08A, E08C, E08G. 1986-1987: items E08A, E08C, E08H, E08I. 1988-1997: items E07A, E07C, E07H, E07I. Data based on one of six questionnaire forms, with a resulting sample size one-sixth of the total sample size for each year.
 

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