Ethnic differences in adolescent perceptions of and attitudes toward substance use

J Ethn Subst Abuse. 2009;8(1):54-69. doi: 10.1080/15332640802683417.


The current study identified ethnic differences in beliefs about substance use and assessed their impact on frequency of use of various substances. Participants were 1,398 Caucasian and African-American rural secondary school students. Only tobacco or cigarettes had significant differences for both cognitive and frequency of use variables. Results revealed that Caucasian students reported higher past 12-month tobacco use compared to African-American students. Congruently, African-American students reported perceiving significantly greater wrongness in tobacco use. In contrast, Caucasian students had a significantly greater perception of harm of tobacco use compared to African-American students. When these cognitive variables were entered as mediators of the ethnicity-cigarette use relationship, only the attitude of wrongness variable served as a significant partial mediator. These data highlight the importance of addressing attitudes as part of substance use prevention.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology
  • African Americans / psychology
  • Attitude to Health / ethnology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Ethnic Groups / psychology
  • Ethnic Groups / statistics & numerical data
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Rural Population / statistics & numerical data
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Smoking / ethnology
  • Smoking / psychology*
  • Students / psychology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / ethnology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology