Prevention Science

, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 129-137

First online:

The At-risk Adolescent Marijuana Nonuser: Expanding the Standard Distinction

  • William D. CranoAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Claremont Graduate University Email author 
  • , Jason T. SiegelAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Claremont Graduate University
  • , Eusebio M. AlvaroAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Claremont Graduate University
  • , Andrew LacAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Claremont Graduate University
  • , Vanessa HemovichAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Claremont Graduate University

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This research expands the user/nonuser dichotomy commonly used in research on marijuana. By conceptualizing nonusers as homogeneous, vital nuances in susceptibility to risk and protective factors may be overlooked. Research operations tested the predictive validity of a brief measure that divided nonusers into resolute and vulnerable subcategories; determined whether variables that distinguished nonusers and users were more informative when a tripartite classification was used; and with an eye on future prevention, examined variables on which resolute nonusers were similar to vulnerable nonusers or users, and on which they differed from both. A nationally representative sample of respondents (N = 2,111; ages 12–16 years) from the National Survey of Parents and Youth was used in this secondary analysis. Panel data gathered yearly over four rounds included information on intentions and use of marijuana and other illicit substances, along with social, demographic, intrapersonal, and parental variables. The three groups differed significantly on associates’ marijuana use, participants’ approval of others’ use, and cigarette and alcohol use. Resolute nonusers differed from vulnerable nonusers and users alike on religiosity, delinquency (self and friends’), refusal strength, sensation seeking, parental monitoring and warmth, and adult supervision. Results support the utility of distinguishing vulnerable from resolute nonusers, counsel against considering nonusers as a homogeneous group, and provide insight into variables that might prove useful in future prevention efforts.


Marijuana usage Risk taking Adolescent attitudes Drug initiation Drug abuse Risk factors Secondary analysis Vulnerability