Gender-Related Processes and Drug Use: Self-Expression with Parents, Peer Group Selection, and Achievement Motivation

Article excerpt

In a national survey of high school seniors, 63.2% reported having been drunk and 41.7% having used marijuana (Johnston, O'Malley, & Bachman, 1996). Research has linked substance use during high school and young adulthood to lower educational attainment and lower earnings (Yamada, Kendix, & Yamada, 1996). Substance use also has been related to higher rates of suicide and violent crimes (Grossman, Chaloupka, Saffer, & Laixuthai, 1994).

Adolescents who consult their parents on issues related to high-risk behaviors (e.g., drug and alcohol use, sexual activity) are less likely to engage in these behaviors (Holtzman & Rubinson, 1995; Karofsky, Zeng, & Kosorok, 2001). Quality of parent-adolescent communication has also been related to health-related behaviors (Olson, Russell, & Sprenkle, 1989; Thomas & Olson, 1993). Finally, positive parent-adolescent communication has been found to predict not only health-promoting behaviors, but also resistance to negative peer pressure (Steinberg & Silverberg, 1986; Wills, Vaccaro, & McNamara, 1992).

Previous research underscores that some adolescents are highly susceptible to peer influence when making lifestyle decisions and experimenting with new and potentially problematic behaviors (Brook, Nomura, & Cohen, 1989; Downs & Rose, 1991). It is well known, for example, that peers can exert tremendous influence on health-related behaviors and substance use (Brown, 1990). For many, the peer group may be an extension or reflection of the parent-adolescent relationship (Brown, 1990). For others, it may be a reaction to this relationship, where unmet needs for acceptance and individuation may be explored through more deviant or high-risk behaviors. Peer groups often establish norms and model behaviors that either encourage or discourage deviant behaviors (Fuglini & Eccles, 1993; Kandel & Lessor, 1972). Associating with drug-using peers has been repeatedly found to be a significant risk factor in adolescent drug use (Dinges & Oetting, 1993). Conversely, involvement with academically oriented and/or athletic peers has been linked to reduced drug use (Clasen & Brown, 1985). Therefore, identifying processes influencing friendship selection can be critical to establishing points of intervention for some adolescent risk behaviors.

For adolescents in the U.S., self-expression has been found to be critical in the development of identity and self-confidence for both boys and girls (Harter, Waters, Whitesell, & Kastelic, 1998). For boys in particular, self-expression, assertion of ideas, and expressions of independence are often expected and socially condoned. Conversely, research examining communication patterns suggests that, in public, girls tend to talk less, interrupt less, and express more agreement than boys (Baird, 1976; Eakins & Eakins, 1978). Yet, in familiar situations and within close relationships, girls may be more expressive of their opinions, interrupt more, and be more talkative, while boys may be more submissive in familiar and intimate settings (Lindfors, 1992).

The present study investigated multiple factors associated with adolescent drug use. Interpersonal and academic variables were conceptualized as interrelated. It was hypothesized that adolescents who express themselves less with parents would engage in greater drug use. Less self-expression with parents was also anticipated to predict lower academic achievement and selection of more drug-using friends. Gender differences were also expected. In particular, it was predicted that adolescent self-expression with parents would play a more significant role in selection of friends, achievement motivation, and drug use for girls compared to boys.

METHOD

Participants

The data used in this study were collected as part of a larger investigation focusing on multiple adolescent issues such as family and peer relationships, achievement motivation, depression, and drug use (see Bowden, 1994; Zeisz, 1994). …

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