Prevention Science

, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 23–33 | Cite as

Personal Competence Skills, Distress, and Well-Being as Determinants of Substance Use in a Predominantly Minority Urban Adolescent Sample

  • Kenneth W. Griffin
  • Gilbert J. Botvin
  • Lawrence M. Scheier
  • Jennifer A. Epstein
  • Margaret M. Doyle


Several previous studies have investigated the relationship between psychological distress and substance use among youth. However, less research has investigated the potentially protective role of psychological well-being on adolescent substance use, and the extent to which personal competence skills may promote well-being. The present study examined personal competence skills, psychological distress and well-being, and adolescent substance use over a 3-year period in a predominantly minority sample of urban students (N = 1,184) attending 13 junior high schools in New York City. Structural equation modeling indicated that greater competence skills predicted less distress and greater well-being over time. Although psychological well-being was associated with less subsequent substance use, distress did not predict later substance use. Findings indicate that competence skills promote resilience against early stage substance use in part by enhancing psychological well-being, and suggest that school-based prevention programs should include competence enhancement components in order to promote resilience.

substance use urban minority competence well-being 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bauman, K. E., & Ennett, S. E. (1994). Tobacco use by Black and White adolescents: The validity of self-reports. American Journal of Public Health, 84, 394-398.Google Scholar
  2. Bentler, P. M. (1995). EQS structural equations program manual. Encino, CA: Multivariate Software.Google Scholar
  3. Bollen, K. A. (1989). Structural equations with latent variables. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  4. Botvin, G. J., Baker, E., Dusenbury, L. D., Botvin, E. M., & Diaz, T. (1995). Long-term follow-up results of a randomized drug abuse prevention trial in a white middle-class population. Journal of the American Medical Association, 273, 1106-1112.Google Scholar
  5. Botvin, G. J., Epstein, J. A., Schinke, S. P., & Diaz, T. (1994). Predictors of smoking among inner-city minority youth. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 15, 67-73.Google Scholar
  6. Botvin, G. J., & Griffin, K. W. (2000). Preventing substance use and abuse. In K. Minke & G. Bear (Eds.), Preventing school problems-promoting school success: Strategies and programs that work (pp. 259-298). Bethesda, MD: National Association of School Psychologists.Google Scholar
  7. Botvin, G. J., Griffin, K. W., Diaz, T., & Ifill-Williams, M. (2001). Drug abuse prevention among minority adolescents: One-year follow-up of a school-based prevention intervention. Prevention Science, 2, 1-13.Google Scholar
  8. Botvin, G. J., Griffin, K. W., Diaz, T., Miller, N., & Ifill-Williams, M. (1999). Smoking initiation and escalation in early adolescent girls: One-year follow-up of a school-based prevention intervention for minority youth. Journal of the American Medical Women's Association, 54, 139-143.Google Scholar
  9. Botvin, G. J., Griffin, K. W., Diaz, T., Scheier, L. M., Williams, C., & Epstein, J. A. (2000). Preventing illicit drug use in adolescents: Long-term follow-up data from a randomized control trial of a school population. Addictive Behaviors, 5, 769-774.Google Scholar
  10. Botvin, G. J., Malgady, R. G., Griffin, K. W., Scheier, L. M., & Epstein, J. A. (1998). Alcohol and marijuana use among rural youth: Interaction of social and intrapersonal influences. Addictive Behaviors, 23, 379-387.Google Scholar
  11. Bugen, L. A., & Hawkins, R. C. (1981). The Coping Assessment Battery: Theoretical and empirical foundations. Paper presented at the meeting of the American Psychological Association, Los Angeles, CA.Google Scholar
  12. Caplan, G. (1980). An approach to preventive intervention in child psychiatry. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 25, 671-682.Google Scholar
  13. Colder, C. R., & Chassin, L. (1993). The stress and negative affect model of adolescent alcohol use and the moderating effects of behavioral undercontrol. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 54, 326-333.Google Scholar
  14. Cooper, M. L., Russell, M., & George, W. H. (1988). Coping, expectancies, and alcohol abuse: A test of social learning formulations. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 97, 218-230.Google Scholar
  15. Crutchfield, R. D., & Gove, W. R. (1984). Determinants of drug use: A test of the coping hypothesis. Social Science and Medicine, 18, 503-509.Google Scholar
  16. Eccles, J. S., Lord, S. E., Roeser, R.W., Barber, B. L., & Jozefowitz, D. M. (1997). The association of school transitions in early adolescence with developmental trajectories through high school. In J. Schulenberg, J. L. Maggs, & K. Hurrelman (Eds.), Health risks and developmental transitions during adolescence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Epstein, J. A., Botvin, G. J., & Diaz, T. (1998). Ethnic and gender differences in smoking prevalence among a longitudinal study of inner-city adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health, 23, 160-166.Google Scholar
  18. Epstein, J. A., Botvin, G. J., Griffin, K. W., & Diaz, T. (1999). Role of ethnicity and gender in polydrug use among a longitudinal sample of inner-city adolescents. Journal of Alcohol and Drug Education, 45, 1-12.Google Scholar
  19. Epstein, J. A., Griffin, K. W., & Botvin, G. J. (2000a). Competence skills help deter smoking among inner-city adolescents. Tobacco Control, 9, 33-39.Google Scholar
  20. Epstein, J. A., Griffin, K. W., & Botvin, G. J. (2000b). Role of general and specific competence skills in alcohol use among inner-city adolescents. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 61, 379-386.Google Scholar
  21. Greenbaum, P. E., Prange, M. E., Friedman, R. M., & Silver, S. E. (1991). Substance abuse prevalence and comorbidity with other psychiatric disordersamongadolescents with severe emotional disturbances. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 30, 575-583.Google Scholar
  22. Griffin, K. W., Botvin, G. J., Doyle, M. M., Diaz, T., & Epstein, J. A. (1999a). A six-year follow-up study of determinants of heavy cigarette smoking among high school seniors. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 22, 271-284.Google Scholar
  23. Griffin, K. W., Botvin, G. J., Epstein, J. A., Doyle, M. M., & Diaz, T. (2000a). Psychosocial and behavioral factors in early adolescence as predictors of heavy drinking among high school seniors. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 61, 603-607.Google Scholar
  24. Griffin, K. W., Scheier, L. M., Botvin, G. J., & Diaz, T. (2000b). Ethnic and gender differences in psychosocial risk, protection, and adolescent alcohol use. Prevention Science, 1, 199-212.Google Scholar
  25. Griffin, K. W., Scheier, L. M., Botvin, G. J., & Diaz, T. (2001). The protective role of personal competence skills in adolescent substance use: Psychological well-being as a mediating factor. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 15, 194-203.Google Scholar
  26. Griffin, K. W., Scheier, L. M., Botvin, G. J., Diaz, T., & Miller, N. (1999b). Interpersonal aggression in urban minority youth: Mediators of perceived neighborhood, peer, and parental influences. Journal of Community Psychology, 27, 281-298.Google Scholar
  27. Hansen, W. B., Collins, L. M., Malotte, C. K., Johnson, C. A., & Fielding, J. E. (1985). Attrition in prevention research. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 8, 261-275.Google Scholar
  28. Heiby, E. M. (1983). Assessment of frequency of self-reinforcement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 44, 1304-1307.Google Scholar
  29. Jessor, R., & Jessor, S. L. (1977). Problem behavior and psychosocial development: A longitudinal study of youth. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  30. Johnson, R. J., & Kaplan, H. B. (1990). Stability of psychological symptoms: Drug use consequences and intervening processes. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 31, 277-291.Google Scholar
  31. Johnston, L. D., O'Malley, P. M., & Bachman, J. G. (2000). Monitoring the future national survey results on drug use, 1975-1999: Vol. 1. Secondary school students (NIH Publication No. 00-4802). Rockville, MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse.Google Scholar
  32. Khanzian, E. J. (1997). The self-medication hypothesis of substance use disorders: A reconsideration and recent applications. Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 4, 231-244.Google Scholar
  33. Labouvie, E. W. (1986). Alcohol and marijuana use in relation to adolescent stress. International Journal of the Addictions, 21, 333-345.Google Scholar
  34. Lerner, R. M., & Galambos, N. L. (1998). Adolescent development: Challenges and opportunities for research, programs, and policies. Annual Review of Psychology, 49, 413-446.Google Scholar
  35. Luthar, S. S., & Zigler, E. (1991). Vulnerability and competence: A review of research on resilience in childhood. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 61, 6-22.Google Scholar
  36. Mainous, A. G., Martin, C. A., Oler, M. J., Richardson, E. T., & Haney, A. S. (1996). Substance use among adolescents: Fulfilling a need state. Adolescence, 31, 807-815.Google Scholar
  37. Marsh, J. W., Balla, J. R., & McDonald, R. P. (1988). Goodness-of-fit indexes in confirmatory factor analysis: The effect of sample size. Psychological Bulletin, 103, 391-410.Google Scholar
  38. Masten, A. S., & Coatsworth, J. D. (1998). The development of competence in favorable and unfavorable environments: Lessons from research on successful children. American Psychologist, 53, 205-219.Google Scholar
  39. National Research Council. (1993). Losing generations: Adolescents in high-risk settings. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
  40. National Research Council and Institute on Medicine. (1999). Risks and opportunities: Synthesis of studies on adolescence. Forum on adolescence (M. D. Kipke, Ed., Board on children, youth, and families). Washington, DC: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
  41. Rosenbaum, M. (1980). Schedule for assessing self-control behaviors. Behavior Therapy, 11, 109-121.Google Scholar
  42. Rutter, M. (1987). Psychosocial resilience and protective mechanisms. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 57, 316-331.Google Scholar
  43. Scheier, L. M., & Botvin, G. J. (1998). Relations of social efficacy, personal competence, and adolescent alcohol use: A developmental exploratory study. Journal of Early Adolescence, 18, 77-114.Google Scholar
  44. Scheier, L. M., Botvin, G. J., Diaz, T., & Griffin, K. W. (1999). Social skills, competence, and drug refusal efficacy as predictors of adolescent alcohol use. Journal of Drug Education, 29, 253-280.Google Scholar
  45. Tabachnick, B. G., & Fidell, L. S. (1989). Using multivariate statistics. New York: Harper Collins.Google Scholar
  46. Veit, C. T., & Ware, J. E. (1983). The structure of psychological distress and well-being in general populations. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 51, 730-742.Google Scholar
  47. Weiss, R. D., & Mirin, S. M. (1987). Substance abuse as an attempt at self-medication. Psychiatric Medicine, 3, 357-367.Google Scholar
  48. Weissberg, R. P., Caplan, M., & Harwood, R. L. (1991). Promoting competent young people in competence-enhancing environments: A systems-based perspective on primary prevention. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 59, 830-841.Google Scholar
  49. Wilkinson, R. B., & Walford, W. A. (1998). The measurement of adolescent psychological health:Oneor two dimensions? Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 27, 443-455.Google Scholar
  50. Wills, T. A., Sandy, J. M., Shinar, O., & Yaeger, A. (1999). Contributions of positive and negative affect to adolescent substance use: Test of a bidimensional model in a longitudinal study. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 13, 327-338.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Society for Prevention Research 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kenneth W. Griffin
    • 1
  • Gilbert J. Botvin
    • 1
  • Lawrence M. Scheier
    • 1
  • Jennifer A. Epstein
    • 1
  • Margaret M. Doyle
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Prevention ResearchWeill Medical College of Cornell University

Personalised recommendations