Perception of friends' use of alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana among urban schoolchildren: a longitudinal analysis

Addict Behav. Sep-Oct 1996;21(5):615-32. doi: 10.1016/0306-4603(95)00086-0.


Relations between adolescents' substance use and perceptions of their friends' substance use were examined cross-sectionally and longitudinally in a predominantly African-American school district. Fourth- and fifth-grade students were surveyed and tracked for 4 consecutive years. Cross-sectional samples included 3,073, 5,955, 7,701, and 6,616 students in years 1 to 4, respectively; the longitudinal sample included 1,802 students surveyed in every year. Self-reported substance use of friends and classmates also was assessed. Perceived friends' substance use had a stronger association with prior substance use than friends' self-reported substance use in every year. Perceived family use and classmates' self-reported use also made independent contributions to regression models. Longitudinal structural equation analyses indicated that perceived friends' use is more likely to be a product of an adolescent's previous substance use than a precursor of subsequent substance use. The findings contradict prevailing theories on the influence of peers on substance use.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data*
  • Age Factors
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Family Health
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Marijuana Smoking / epidemiology
  • Marijuana Smoking / psychology
  • Models, Psychological
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Odds Ratio
  • Peer Group*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Sampling Studies
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Smoking / psychology
  • Social Control, Informal*
  • Social Perception*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / etiology
  • Urban Health