Behavioral misperceptions, attitudinal discrepancies, and adolescent alcohol and marijuana use

Courtney R. Thrash, Tara D. Warner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Adolescents’ risk of substance use is shaped by perceptions of peers’ use and peers’ approval, and also by attitudes, values, and behaviors of broader, peer-based, school-level climates. Yet misperceiving peer behavior and/or possessing beliefs/values discrepant from peers may also increase substance use. Methods: Using school-based survey data, we examined (a) associations between individual- and school-level norms and adolescents’ risk of alcohol and marijuana use, (b) accuracy of adolescents’ perception of peer behavior and consistency between individual and peer attitudes, and (c) consequences of behavioral misperceptions and attitudinal discrepancies. Results: Both individual- and school-level perceptions and attitudes were associated with adolescent substance use, and students aligned behaviors with their perceptions of the broader normative climate. Conclusions: Peers are key correlates of adolescents’ use, and their influence is nuanced and complex. Substance use prevention and intervention efforts should thus attend to the prevailing norms within certain developmental contexts, and also adolescents’ deviation from such norms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)394-399
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Substance Use
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 4 2019


  • Alcohol use
  • adolescence
  • marijuana use
  • normative climate
  • peer effects

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health(social science)


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