First Advisor

Janice Haaken

Term of Graduation

Summer 1994

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Psychology






Children -- Drug use -- Moral and ethical aspects, Youth -- Drug use -- Moral and ethical aspects, Children -- Drug use -- Social aspects, Youth -- Drug use -- Social aspects, Children -- Drug use -- Sex differences, Youth -- Drug use -- Sex differences



Physical Description

1 online resource (2, 57 pages)


The use and abuse of drugs among adolescents and adults has prompted a renewed national concern about drug abuse. Educational programs have attempted to provided factual information and create negative attitudes about drug use so that students will decide not to use drugs. Studies have revealed, however, that the drug programs have not been effective in reducing drug use.

The present research addresses two primary questions: 1) Are there developmental differences in young persons' perceptions of social and moral dilemmas associated with drug use? and 2) Are gender and race associated with social and moral reasoning about drug use?

Semi-structured interviewers were conducted with 32 fourth and 32 eleventh grade students. The interview posed two vignettes about drug-related behavior, including helping behavior. In addition, the interview probed respondents' conceptions of the problems associated with drug use and of the treatment that users and dealers should receive. Content analysis produced 40 codes which reached the reliability criterion of 60 percent agreement. The Kappas ranged from .57 to .91 (m = .66). Chi square tests were conducted, using the variables of race, sex and the thematic categories associated with each question.

Of the 26 tests of significance conducted on the variables, two were significant for grade, two were significant for gender and one was significant for race. Eleventh grade students were more likely to specifically reject some category of help than the fourth grade students ( = 4.48, p < .05, df = 1). Fourth grade students were more likely to consider teachers as a source of help ( = 3.48, p < .06, df = 1). Female students were more likely to acknowledge risk to themselves due to helping ( = 4.27, p < .04, df = 1). Caucasian students were more likely to acknowledge that there may be risks to the helpee due to helping ( = 3.52, p < .06, df = 1). Male students were more likely to want punishment and control of drug dealers ( = 5.32, p < .05, df = 1).

In general, the findings indicate that there are fewer developmental, gender and race differences in children's perception of drug use and associated dilemmas than might be expected. Students' descriptions did reveal that they are thinking and reasoning about the information given to them.


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