Trends in the Well-Being of America's Children and Youth, 1997. SD 3.6 Peer attitudes towards alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, and smoking

04/01/1997

Drug use is correlated with attitudes and beliefs about drugs, both in terms of perceived health risks and the level of peer disapproval.33 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).

Peer disapproval of drinking and smoking marijuana among 12th graders increased from 1981 to 1992 to highs of 78 percent and 79 percent, respectively. Disapproval of both these actions began to decline in 1993. By 1995, the percentage of 12th grade students who reported peer disapproval of drinking was 73 percent, and of smoking marijuana was 65 percent (see Figure SD 3.6). Peer disapproval of smoking cigarettes has also declined since 1992, although disapproval levels had been relatively stable prior to that time. In 1995, 69 percent of 12th graders reported peer disapproval of smoking cigarettes, down from a high of 76 percent in 1992. Peer disapproval of cocaine use increased from 87 percent in 1986 to 95 percent in 1991 and has remained at this level. Cocaine use commands the highest level of peer disapproval for every year shown.

Differences by Gender. Male high school seniors have consistently reported lower levels of peer disapproval of drinking than have their female peers. In 1995, 65 percent of males reported peer disapproval of drinking, compared to 80 percent of females. Disapproval rates for cigarette use were similar for males and females until 1993, when male disapproval began to decrease. Male students also report somewhat lower peer disapproval of smoking marijuana.

Differences by Race. For 1995, rates of disapproval for drug use were generally similar for blacks and whites, with the exception of cigarette smoking. Among blacks, 81 percent reported peer disapproval of smoking compared to 67 percent among white students.
 

Figure SD 3.6  
Percentage of High School Seniors Who Reported that Peers Would Not Approve of Their Using Alcohol, Marijuana, Cocaine, or Cigarettes: 1995 
SD3_6.GIF

Source: Johnston, L.D., Bachman, J.G. , OMalley, P.M. The Monitoring the Future: Questionnaire responses from the Nations High School Seniors. 1981, 1986, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995. (Form 4.) Ann Arbor, Michigan: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan.
 
 

Table SD 3.6  
Percentage of High School Seniors Who Reported that Peers Would Not Approve of Their Using Alcohol, Marijuana, Cocaine, or Cigarettes:  Selected Years 1981-1995

     
1981
1986
1991
1992
1993
1994
1995
     
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Disapprove of taking one to two drinks nearly every day
Total
70
76
77
78
77
76
73
    Gender
    Male
61
68
68
69
68
67
65
    Female
79
84
85
85
85
83
80
  Race
    White
69
75
77
77
76
76
72
    Black
73
82
80
81
80
78
74
                   
Disapprove of smoking marijuana even occasionally
Total
56
64
76
79
74
69
65
    Gender
    Male
54
60
73
78
72
63
62
    Female
58
68
78
80
75
74
69
      Race
    White
55
63
75
78
73
68
64
    Black
62
72
86
84
76
70
69
                   
Disapprove of taking cocaine even occasionallya
Total
--
87
95
94
94
94
94
  Gender
    Male
--
84
93
93
92
91
92
    Female
--
90
96
96
96
96
95
      Race
    White
--
88
96
96
95
94
95
    Black
--
89
97
91
89
94
92
                   
Disapprove of smoking one or more packs of cigarettes per day
Total
74
76
74
76
72
72
69
  Gender
    Male
74
75
72
76
68
67
65
    Female
74
77
77
75
75
77
74
      Race
    White
74
75
72
77
71
69
67
    Black
75
81
88
75
80
83
81
                   
aThe question regarding cocaine use was not included prior to 1986.  

Source: Johnston, L.D., Bachman, J.G., OMalley, P.M. "The Monitoring the Future: Questionnaire Responses from the Nations High School Seniors." 1981, 1986, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995. (Form 4) Ann Arbor, Michigan: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan. Data based on one of six questionnaire forms with a resulting sample size one-sixth of the total sample size for each year.

 

33 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. "Preliminary Estimates from the 1995 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse." Rockville, Maryland: Public Health Service, 1996.
 
 

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