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
|Disapprove of taking one to two drinks nearly every day|
|Disapprove of smoking marijuana even occasionally|
|Disapprove of taking cocaine even occasionallya|
|Disapprove of smoking one or more packs of cigarettes per day|
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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