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Youth Misperceptions of Peer Substance Use Norms: A Hidden Risk Factor in State and Community Prevention

Abstract

Effective community prevention of substance abuse involves the integration of policies and programs to address many different risk and protective factors across the social ecology. This study sought to examine whether youth perceptions of peer substance use norms were operating as a risk factor at the same level as other known risk factors in a statewide community prevention effort. Several different analytical techniques were employed to examine the self-reported data from a sample of over 8,000 students in grades 6, 8, 10, and 12 from across Wyoming using a survey based on a risk and protective factor model. The findings of this study revealed that youth misperception of peer substance use norms operate at a level of significance similar to other known risk factors, and these misperceptions are a risk factor that should be measured in order to estimate its relationship with substance use. The measurement of this risk factor has important strategic implications for community prevention.

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Correspondence to Rodney A. Wambeam.

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Wambeam, R.A., Canen, E.L., Linkenbach, J. et al. Youth Misperceptions of Peer Substance Use Norms: A Hidden Risk Factor in State and Community Prevention. Prev Sci 15, 75–84 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11121-013-0384-8

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Keywords

  • Youth
  • Social norms
  • Perceptions
  • Alcohol and substance abuse
  • Risk and protective factors