Primary Sources: Are Researchers Equipped to Study Substance Use Among Native Youth?

Photograph of a Native American teen girl.

Community, Family, and Peer Influences on Alcohol, Marijuana, and Illicit Drug Use Among a Sample of Native American Youth: An Analysis of Predictive Factors,” (abstract) Journal of Ethnicity in Substance Abuse, Vol. 9, Issue 4, 2010.

What it's about: Researchers investigated whether three theories commonly used to study teen drinking and drug use could be used to study substance use among Native American young people. They tested the theories using data collected from Native American middle-school and high-school students in Montana.

Why read it: The three theories most commonly used to study the connection between social problems and substance use -- social bonding theory, social learning theory and social disorganization theory – have not been tested on non-white youth. This article aims to fill a void by seeing if the theories can explain differences in substance use among Native young people.

Biggest take away for youth workers: In general, the researchers found that existing theories are important frameworks for studying drug use among Native American youth. They reported that the social learning theory was the most useful in predicting whether or not young people would use drugs. For example, youth with friends who got into trouble and with positive attitudes toward wrongdoing were shown to be more likely to use drugs than were their peers.

The researchers also noted that for future studies, surveys need to be designed with cultural differences in mind, such as the fact that Native Americans have a broader definition of family than do whites.

Additional reference: The new Office of Indian Alcohol and Substance Abuse will coordinate alcohol and substance abuse efforts among Native American and Alaskan Native communities and federal agencies. Its parent agency, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, offers the "American Indian and Alaska Native Culture Card," a guide to serving Native groups with cultural competence and respect.

(Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of NCFY, FYSB or the Administration for Children and Families. Go to the NCFY literature database for abstracts of this and other publications.)

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