Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp 331–357 | Cite as

Depression and substance use in two divergent high school cultures: A quantitative and qualitative analysis

  • Niobe Way
  • Helena Y. Stauber
  • Michael J. Nakkula
  • Perry London


Research has generally concluded that adolescent depression and substance use are strongly interrelated, but has rarely considered how this relationship may vary across diverse populations. In this study, we used quantitative and qualitative methods to explore the relationships among depression and cigarette, alcohol, marijuana, and harder drug use across two culturally disparate environments: a suburban and an inner-city high school. Our sample included 164 suburban and 242 inner-city high school students. The students completed Kovacs' Children's Depression Inventory of 1985 and substance use measures derived from various sources. In-depth semistructured interviews were conducted with subjects who scored in the top 10% of the CDI (N=19) from both schools. Our quantitative findings indicated a positive association between depression and cigarette, marijuana, and harder drug use among the suburban students, and no association between depression and the use of any substances for the urban students. There were no significant differences in levels of reported depression across samples. However, with the exception of marijuana use, suburban students reported greater involvement in substance use than urban students. Our qualitative analyses suggest that across-school differences in the relationships among depression and substance use may be related to the varied meanings of depression and substance use that are informed by cultural context.


High School Positive Association Health Psychology Quantitative Finding High School Student 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Niobe Way
    • 1
  • Helena Y. Stauber
    • 2
  • Michael J. Nakkula
    • 2
  • Perry London
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyYale UniversityNew Haven
  2. 2.Graduate School of EducationHarvard UniversityUSA
  3. 3.Rutgers UniversityUSA
  4. 4.Graduate School of EducationHarvard UniversityUSA
  5. 5.B.A. Yeshiva University
  6. 6.Ph.D. Teachers CollegeColumbia UniversityUSA

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