First Advisor

Janice K. Haaken

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Psychology






Youth -- Drug use -- Social aspects, Children -- Drug use -- Social aspects, Peer pressure in adolescence



Physical Description

1 online resource (2, 84 p.)


This study explores youth's perceptions and understanding of the social phenomenon of drugs in our society. Sixty-four students (32 fourth graders and 32 eleventh graders), selected from schools in the Portland Public School District participated individually in a one hour interview where they responded to open ended questions that probed for their perceptions of drug use. Participants were also asked to describe their feelings regarding anti-drug messages they view in the media and their comments regarding the "Just Say NO" program. The tape-recorded interviews were transcribed and half were used to develop a code that captured recurring themes in the data. Using the code book, five trained individuals coded the 64 transcripts. Reliability, assessed by computing Cohen's Kappa on half the interviews, ranged from .62 to .75, with an average reliability of .69. Seventeen themes derived from the content analysis were discussed which confirm the dramatic impact the peer group has on drug use as well as demonstrate age differences associated with perceptions of anti-drug messages. One hundred percent of the participants noted that there are peer influences promoting drug use. Eleventh graders were more likely than fourth graders to note that drugs are used as a means to escape, overcome constraints or for pleasurable stimulation. Fourth graders were more positive in their responses to the anti-drug commercials and the "Just Say NO" campaign. This research provides information regarding the perceptions of young people that can potentially broaden the dialogue of program planners as well as increase the effectiveness of anti-drug programs and messages.


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