Understanding the relative influence of neighborhood, family, and youth on adolescent drug use.


In the United States, a variety of programs have been developed to prevent substance use among youth. These programs often target youth directly, and may also have components that address the relational influence of families, schools, and communities. We discuss clustering of youth marijuana use within and between households and neighborhoods. As often discussed in the literature, we consider analyzing "components of variance" in a hierarchical sample design with two or more levels. With a continuous outcome variable, the estimated relative size of variance components at each level can be interpreted as its relative "importance." We estimate variance components when the outcome is dichotomous, and find that for the use of marijuana in the past year, the role of the individual (individual adolescent vs. role of household vs. role of neighborhood) is quite prominent (79% of variation). A similar result is observed for the continuous scale variable of individual positive attitudes toward drug use (83%). For continuous constructs related to either household (parental monitoring) or neighborhood (neighborhood disorganization) the majority of variation still occurs at the individual level (67% and 51%, respectively), although they reveal significant percent variation (about 30%) at the corresponding family or neighborhood levels as well. We discuss the use of variance component methodology and the relevance for prevention programs.

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