Relations between normative beliefs and initiation intentions toward cigarette, alcohol and marijuana

J Adolesc Health. 2005 Jul;37(1):75. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2004.09.020.


Purpose: To examine the relations between normative beliefs and intentions to initiate cigarette, alcohol, and marijuana use among adolescents reporting no prior use.

Methods: An anonymous questionnaire was administered to 6,594 seventh- to twelfth-grade students in northeast Ohio. Separate analyses were conducted on sub-samples of respondents reporting no prior use of each substance. Within each of these 3 sub-samples, respondents were classified as holding high-risk intentions if they reported that they intended to begin using that particular substance within the next 6 months or were "not sure" of their intentions. Those reporting that they did not intend to start using a substance were classified as holding low-risk intentions. Multivariate logistic regression analyses examined the relations between normative beliefs and intention status (low- vs. high-risk), while accounting for socio-demographic characteristics.

Results: Across all 3 substances, normative beliefs were stronger predictors of intention status than socio-demographic variables. Higher levels of perceived acceptability and perceived prevalence were associated with holding high-risk intentions. Normative belief measures assessing close friend and sibling reference groups were much more important in explaining intention status than those assessing other reference groups (e.g., same age peers).

Conclusions: Among adolescents with no prior use, normative beliefs concerning close friends and siblings may play an important role in the catalysis and support of intentions to initiate substance use. These findings challenge the utility of primary prevention strategies that provide normative feedback based on rates of substance use among distal reference groups.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • Attitude to Health
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Marijuana Smoking / epidemiology
  • Marijuana Smoking / psychology*
  • Ohio
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Smoking / psychology*
  • Social Class
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology