Psychosocial Correlates of Marijuana Use and Problem Drinking in a National Sample of Adolescents

This paper reports data collected in 1974 from over 10,000 who composed a national sample of students in grades 7 through 12. Items related to Jessor's Problem Behavior Theory were included in this survey. These included the following:
  • Personality System
    • The value of independence relative to the value of academic achievement
    • Expectations for academic achievement
    • Attitudinal tolerance for deviance
    • Religiosity
    • Positive and negative expectations about drinking alcohol

  • Perceived Environmental System
    • Compatibility between parents' and friends' expectations
    • Relative parent versus friends' influence on decisions
    • Family approval of drinking alcohol
    • Friends' approval of drinking alcohol
    • Friends as models for drinking
    • Friends' pressure to engage in marijuana use
    • Friends as models for marijuana use

  • Behavior System
    • Frequency of general deviant (delinquent type) behavior
    • Frequency of drunkenness in the past year
    • Frequency of psychedelic, amphetamine, and barbiturate use in the past year
    • Frequency of church attendance
    • Grade point average (school performance)

  • Demographics
    • Age
    • Father's education
    • Mother's education
    • Socioeconomic status of the family
Marijuana use was strongly correlated with a number of the measures noted as important by Problem Behavior Theory. The strongest correlations for both males and females were related to other deviant behaviors and associations with a deviant peer group. Friends' use of marijuana and pressure from friends to use marijuana were important sources of influence. The personality factor that best predicted marijuana use was an attitude of tolerance towards deviance. Overall, elements of the perceived environment system were about twice as important statistically as the personality system components.

School performance and church attendance, while statistically significant, were not as strongly predictive of marijuana use. Family demographics such as father's education, mother's education, and the family's socioeconomic status were not important predictors of marijuana use.

The pattern of results was replicated among various sub-samples of students, including Whites, African Americans, Hispanic, Native American, and Asians sub-groups. The same measures were correlated with problem drinking. The size of the correlations were highly similar for problem drinking as for marijuana use.





The central thesis of Problem Behavior Theory is supported by these findings. That is, problem behaviors such as drug use and delinquency often co-occur. Engaging in any problem behavior increases the likelihood that youths will also engage in other problem behaviors.

Prevention efforts might be advised to considered developing interventions that address multiple behaviors that are considered problem behaviors. Alcohol, tobacco use, marijuana use, and delinquency are all related. Each may need to be addressed with specific details of intervention. However, addressing only one behavior when multiple behaviors are related to that one behavior may be insufficient to create an effect.
Jessor, R., Chase, J.A., and Donovan, J.E.. (1980). Psychosocial correlates of marijuana use and problem drinking in a national sample of adolescents. American Journal of Public Health 70(6): 604-613.
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