Parents And Peers Influence College Marijuana Use
Tags: Adolescents Education marijuana Prevention students surveys young adults
Marijuana is the illicit drug most used by adolescents and young adults but has been rarely studied in older adults. The drug is known to cause short term memory deficits and difficulties with concentration. Consequently, compared to non-users, adolescent and college users report poorer academic performance, less time studying, and increased absence from classes. Opportunities to initiate use of marijuana are common in teen years and continue throughout college and into adulthood. The results of a recent study showed that both parental and peer influence play a role in late adolescence and young adulthood decision making about marijuana.
Data were taken from the College Life Study, a large study of students at a public mid-Atlantic University. All those attending new student orientation were invited to complete a screening survey. A sample of 1253 students was selected and assessed annually for four years. Race and gender were considered to ensure diversity. Follow-on surveys found that more than a third of the students had already used marijuana once before college and 25% more started using after entering college. Of the 360 non-prior users, 74% were offered marijuana in college and as a result 54% started using. Notably, not all users used frequently. Only 32.8% of the sample used marijuana 12 or more times at least once over 4 years.
The survey included questions about parental monitoring and supervision during the student’s senior year in high school. The findings showed that a high level of parental monitoring and establishing of boundaries appeared to be two of the most protective factors across the entire developmental stages. However, once exposure occurred, the survey indicated that the decision to use or not to use was more the result of peer influence.
The study provides strong evidence of the continuity of marijuana use from high school to college and the risk of exposure and use remains high through college. Since initiation seldom occurs after 2 years of college the researchers suggest that prevention efforts should be aimed at first and second year college students as a continuation of prevention activities beginning before high school.
(Pinchevsky, GM, Arria, AM, Caldeira, KM, Garnier-Dykstra, KB, Vincent, KB, O’Grady, KE: Marijuana exposure opportunity and initiation during college: parental and peer influences: Prevention Science, Society for Prevention Research 2011 10.1007/s11121-011-90243-4).