Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology

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Volume 5 Issue 4 (October 1995), Pages fmi-fmi, 221-289

Teenagers and illicit drug use—expanding the ‘user vs non‐user’ dichotomy (pages 221-241)

Abstract

The present study examines proximal and distal factors associated with the use and non‐use of illegal substances within a sample of 860 teenagers in North Wales. Arguing that there is predictive utility in expanding the traditional ‘users vs non‐users’ design dichotomy, four groups are identified — resistant and vulnerable non‐users and experimental and repeated users. ‘Person’ variables (life satisfaction, deviance, hopelessness and drug‐related attributions) appeared to primarily differentiate the vulnerable group from their resistant counterparts and identify this, as yet non‐using group, with user samples. It is suggested that these variables might represent ‘risk’ factors for illicit substance use and that the group design employed suggests they precede, rather than follow as a consequence of, illicit drug use. Like their resistant counterparts however, the vulnerable group are differentiated from user samples on some lifestyle and context indices. It is argued that these represent ‘protective’ influences in an otherwise at‐risk group of non‐users. Variables associated with an escalation of illicit drug use are discussed in considering the differences between the experimental and repeated user groups. Apart from the more proximal factor of drug‐related attributions, ‘person’ variables appeared less involved here. Repeated users did however, tend to use a greater number of drugs, have a greater proportion of friends who also used illegal substances and significantly fewer had a Welsh cultural identity.

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