Academic journal article Social Work Research

School Bonding and Substance Use in Rural Communities

Academic journal article Social Work Research

School Bonding and Substance Use in Rural Communities

Article excerpt

Adolescent substance use in U.S. rural communities is now equal to or greater than urban use for many substances. Yet much research focuses on urban and suburban populations, raising doubt as to the generalizability of etiological models of substance use to rural populations. This study examines whether the relationship between school bonding and alcohol and drug use depends on level of rurality of the community in which an adolescent lives. Data were collected between 1996 and 2000 from a sample of junior and senior high schools in 193 predominantly white communities, stratified by region. Multilevel models were estimated for alcohol, marijuana, inhalants, and amphetamines. A strong negative relationship was found between school bonding and substance use, no matter the level of rurality. Results also suggested that school bonding might be more protective for drunkenness and marijuana use in the most remote communities.

KEY WORDS: adolescents; rural populations; school bonding; substance use

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Use of some substances among youths in U.S. rural communities is now greater than use in the nation's urban areas according to recent reports. Combining data from national surveys, numerous studies, and interviews with experts, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (2000) reported that rural eighth graders were 104% more likely to use amphetamines, including methamphetamines, and 50% more likely to use cocaine. In addition, the use of other drugs, such as marijuana and alcohol, was just as prevalent in rural communities. For 10th graders, rural use rates exceeded urban rates for every drug, except ecstasy and marijuana. Yet the majority of substance use research still focuses on urban and suburban populations, with relatively little attention paid to the nation's more rural populations (Conger & Elder, 1994; Spoth & Redmond, 1996). This one-sidedness raises doubt as to the generalizability of etiological models of youth substance use to rural populations (Botvin, Malgady, Griffin, Scheier, & Epstein, 1998).

Research widely affirms that school bonding is a protective factor for adolescent substance use. That is, when youths have positive experiences and ties to school, they are less likely to participate in illegal behaviors, such as drug and alcohol use (Bryant, Schulenberg, O'Malley, Bachman, & Johnston, 2003; Guo, Hawkins, Hill, & Abbott, 2001; Maguin & Loeber, 1996; McNeely, Nonnemaker, & Blum, 2002; Rountree & Clayton, 1999; Williams, Ayers, Abbott, Hawkins, & Catalano, 1999). However, few, if any, studies have focused on understanding the relationship between school bonding and drug and alcohol use based on the level of rurality of the community. This is an important research question in a time when many rural schools are facing difficult challenges that could negatively affect students' connections to school, including inadequate funding (Beeson, 2001; Haas, 2000; Mathis, 2003), a shortage of experienced teachers because of difficulties in attracting and retaining teachers (Collins, 1999; Rural School and Community Trust, 2001), long travel/busing times for students (Killeen & Sipple, 2000; Spence, 2000), school and school district consolidation (Beeson, 2001; Killeen & Sipple; Mitchell, 2000), and an overall urban/suburban focus in national and state education policies (Kannapel & DeYoung, 1999; Parker, 2001).

Our study addresses this gap in the research by explicitly examining whether the relationship between school bonding and alcohol and drug use depends on the type of community in which an adolescent lives. We were able to do this by using a national data set of a representative sample of schools located in 193 communities that differ by level of rurality.

SCHOOL BONDING AS A PROTECTIVE FACTOR

Control theory (Hirschi, 1969) explains the relationship between at-risk behaviors and the bond an individual maintains with important elements of society; youths who are bound by positive social ties are less likely to participate in illegal substance use (Agnew, 1993). …

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