Adolescent substance use and peer use: a multilevel analysis of cross-sectional population data

Kristjansson, Alfgeir L.; Sigfusdottir, Inga Dora; Allegrante, John P.

Background: Limited evidence exists concerning the importance of social contexts in adolescent substance use prevention. In addition to the important role schools play in educating young people, they are important ecological platforms for adolescent health, development and behaviors. In this light, school community contexts represent an important, but largely neglected, area of research in adolescent substance use and prevention, particularly with regard to peer influences. This study sought to add to a growing body of literature into peer contexts by testing a model of peer substance use simultaneously on individual and school community levels while taking account of several well established individual level factors. Method: We analyzed population-based data from the 2009 Youth in Iceland school survey, with 7,084 participants (response rate of 83.5%) nested within 140 schools across Iceland. Multilevel logistic regression models were used to analyze the data. Results: School-level peer smoking and drunkenness were positively related to adolescent daily smoking and lifetime drunkenness after taking account of individual level peer smoking and drunkenness. These relationships held true for all respondents, irrespective of socio-economic status and other background variables, time spent with parents, academic performance, self-assessed peer respect for smoking and alcohol use, or if they have substance-using friends or not. On the other hand, the same relationships were not found with regard to individual and peer cannabis use. Conclusions: The school-level findings in this study represent context effects that are over and above individual-level associations. This holds although we accounted for a large number of individual level variables that studies generally have not included. For the purpose of prevention, school communities should be targeted as a whole in substance use prevention programs in addition to reaching to individuals of particular concern.


Also Published In

Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy

More About This Work

Academic Units
Sociomedical Sciences
Published Here
December 11, 2013