Adolescent substance use: preliminary examinations of school and neighborhood context

Am J Community Psychol. 1999 Apr;27(2):111-41. doi: 10.1023/A:1022879500217.


In considering the influences of microsystems on adolescent substance use, familial and peer contexts have received the most extensive attention in the research literature. School and neighborhood settings, however, are other developmental contexts that may exert specific influences on adolescent substance use. In many instances, school settings are organized to provide educational services to students who share similar educational abilities and behavioral repertoires. The resulting segregation of students into these settings may result in different school norms for substance use. Similarly, neighborhood resources, including models for substance use and drug sales involvement, may play an important role in adolescent substance use. We briefly review literature examining contextual influences on adolescent substance use, and present results from two preliminary studies examining the contribution of school and neighborhood context to adolescent substance use. In the first investigation, we examine the impact of familial, peer, and school contexts on adolescent substance use. Respondents were 283 students (ages 13 to 18) from regular and special education classrooms in six schools. Although peer and parental contexts were important predictors of substance use, school norms for drug use accounted for variance in adolescent use beyond that explained by peer and parental norms. Data from a second study of 114 adolescents (mean age = 15) examines neighborhood contributions to adolescent substance use. In this sample, neighborhood indices did not contribute to our understanding of adolescent substance use. Implications for prevention are presented.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Female
  • Forecasting
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parents / psychology
  • Peer Group
  • Schools
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Social Environment*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Urban Population / trends