Data-Driven Learning Guide

Deviant behavior is socially and culturally defined. Behaviors considered deviant in one society may be viewed as quite harmless in another. A behavior may even be defined as deviant when one type of person does it, but not when another type of person does. In the United States, the use of illegal drugs and alcohol is subject to similar socially constructed definitions of deviance. Alcohol use is considered deviant when the user is under the legal drinking age, driving an automobile, or pregnant, but quite acceptable under other conditions. Likewise, some types of illegal drugs are deemed more deviant than others, and the definition varies with the circumstances of use.

Adolescent substance use is of particular importance to researchers and policy makers because adolescence is characterized by a period of physical, emotional, and psychological development, all of which may influence, and be influenced by, substance use.

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Examples of possible research questions about the characteristics of adolescent substance users:

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What proportion of teens have ever consumed alcohol?
How often do teens report drinking alcohol until they are drunk?
What proportion of teens report ever using marijuana?
Are there racial or gender differences in substance use?
Do religious teens use substances less frequently than less-religious teens?
How do teens’ aspirations for the future relate to substance use?
Is employment related to substance use?

Data

Data for this exercise come from the 2006 Monitoring the Future 12th Grade Survey (MTF). The 2006 MTF is part of an ongoing series of cross-sectional data collection designed to explore changes in important values, behaviors, and lifestyle orientations of contemporary American youth. Each year, large, distinct, nationally representative samples of 8th, 10th, and 12th-grade students in the United States are asked to respond to drug use and demographic questions, as well as to additional questions on a variety of subjects, including attitudes toward religion, parental influences, changing roles of women, educational aspirations, self-esteem, exposure to sex and drug education, and violence and crime; both in and out of school. Data used for this exercise are restricted to the 2006 12th Grade Survey, Core Data. Funding for MTF is provided by the United States department of Health and Human Services, National Institute on Drug Abuse. The principal investigators are Lloyd D. Johnston, Jerald G. Bachman, Patrick M. O’Malley, and John E. Schulenberg of the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, Survey Research Center.

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The MTF 12th Grade Survey is a school-based sample designed to represent high school seniors in the contiguous United States. In this exercise, data from the Core dataset (DS1) are used.

This exercise will use the following variables:

Alcohol use last 30 days (V106)
Marijuana use last 30 days (V114)
Sex (V150)
Race (V151)
Frequency of religious service attendance (V169)
Importance of religion (V170)
Work during school year (V191)
College aspirations (V188)

Application

This exercise explores the characteristics of adolescent substance users using crosstabulation and bar charts.

In this exercise we focus on two measures of substance use which indicate how often the respondent drank more than a few sips of alcohol in the past 30 days (V106), and how often they used marijuana in the past 30 days (V114). We recoded both variables so that 0=never used, and 1=used. The new variables are called “DRINKMONTH” and “MARJMONTH.”

Demographic Characteristics

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First, consider substance use by respondent’s sex and race. Look at the crosstab of alcohol use (DRINKMONTH) by sex
(Links to an external site.)
(V150). Do males or females seem more likely to report alcohol use in the past 30 days? Also look at the crosstab of marijuana use (MARJMONTH) by sex
(Links to an external site.)
(V150). Is the relationship between sex and substance use similar for both alcohol and marijuana?

Next, examine the relationship between alcohol use and race
(Links to an external site.)
(responses were “Black,” “White,” and “Hispanic”). Look at the bar chart. Which racial group reports the lowest alcohol use in the past 30 days? Consider the relationship between marijuana use and race
(Links to an external site.)
(V151). Again, look at the bar chart. Does marijuana use follow the same pattern as alcohol use among the racial groups?

Religiosity

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Does substance use vary by religiosity? One important dimension of religiosity is frequency of religious attendance (V169). The question asked is “How often do you attend religious services?” The response options were: “never” (1); “rarely” (2); “1-2X/month” (3); and “1/week or more.”

Look at the bar chart from the crosstab analysis of alcohol use by frequency of religious service attendance
(Links to an external site.)
(V169). Do those who frequently attend religious services report less alcohol use? Do you observe a similar pattern when you look at the bar chart of marijuana use and frequency of attending religious services
(Links to an external site.)
?

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Another measure of religiosity is the importance of religion in one’s life. Variable V170 contains respondents’ answers to the question, “How important is religion in your life?” The possible responses were: “not important” (1); “a little important” (2); “pretty important” (3); and “very important” (4).

Look at the crosstab of alcohol use by importance of religion
(Links to an external site.)
and the crosstab of marijuana use by importance of religion
(Links to an external site.)
. Comparing the results for these two analyses as well as the two analyses using frequency of attendance as the measure of religiosity, do religious attendance and religious importance seem to have similar relationships to substance use?

Work

Next, consider the relationship between adolescent employment and substance use. To simplify the analysis, we recoded the responses to the question about how many hours the respondent worked per week (V191), collapsing the responses into four categories: Zero hours (1); 10 or fewer (but more than zero) hours (2); 11-20 hours (3); more than 20 hours (4). The new variable is called “WORKHOURS.”

Compare the crosstab of alcohol use by WORKHOURS
(Links to an external site.)
to the crosstab of marijuana use by WORKHOURS
(Links to an external site.)
. Looking at the tables, does there seem to be a relationship between number of hours worked and substance use?

Aspirations for the Future

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Finally, analyze the relationship between substance use and aspirations for the future. The dataset contains multiple measures of future aspirations. You will focus your analysis on aspirations for a 4-year college degree (v188) and aspirations for a military career (v181). For ease of analysis, we have recoded and relabeled these variables into dichotomous measures called “WANTDEGREE” and “WANTMIL,” coded as “1” if the respondent aspired to that career path and “0” if not.

Consider the crosstab of alcohol use by WANTDEGREE
(Links to an external site.)
. Does alcohol use vary by college aspirations? How big is the difference?

What about marijuana use
(Links to an external site.)
? Are adolescents with college aspirations more or less likely to have used marijuana than those without college aspirations?

Do you expect those with aspirations to join the military to be more, less, or equally likely to have consumed a drink in the past 30 days than those who do not aspire to join the military? Does the crosstab of alcohol use by WANTMIL
(Links to an external site.)
support your hypothesis?

What about marijuana use? Do you feel that those with military aspirations are more, less, or equally likely to have used marijuana in the past 30 days than respondents who do not have military aspirations? Look at the crosstab of marijuana use by military aspirations
(Links to an external site.)
. How do you interpret the difference?

Questions to Respond To

Demographic Characteristics

ACME WRITERS

Do males or females seem more likely to report alcohol use in the past 30 days?
Is the relationship between sex and substance use similar for alcohol and marijuana?
Which racial group reports the lowest alcohol use in the past 30 days?
Does marijuana use follow the same pattern as alcohol use among the racial groups?

Religiosity

Do those who attend religious services more frequently tend to report less alcohol use?
How does marijuana use relate to frequency of attending religious services?
Do religious attendance and religious importance have similar relationships to substance use?

Work/Aspirations for the Future

Does there seem to be a relationship between number of hours worked and substance use?
Does alcohol use vary by college aspirations? How big is the difference?
Are adolescents with college aspirations more or less likely to use marijuana than those without college aspirations?
Do you expect those with aspirations to join the military to be more, less, or equally likely to have consumed a drink in the past 30 days than those who do not aspire to join the military?

ACME WRITERS
Do you feel that those with military aspirations are more, less, or equally likely to have used marijuana in the past 30 days than respondents who do not have military aspirations? How do you interpret the difference?

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