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How might schools influence young people's drug use? Development of theory from qualitative case-study research

Fletcher, Adam, Bonell, Chris, Sorhaindo, Annik and Strange, Vicki 2009. How might schools influence young people's drug use? Development of theory from qualitative case-study research. Journal of Adolescent Health 45 (2) , pp. 126-132. 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2008.12.021

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Purpose: To explore young people's experiences of school and drug use, generate hypotheses regarding the pathways through which schools may influence students’ drug use, and examine how these may vary according to students’ sociodemographic characteristics. Methods: Qualitative data were collected through semistructured interviews with 30 students (aged 14–15) and 10 teachers in two case-study schools. Students were purposively sampled to encompass variations in socioeconomic status, gender, ethnicity, and school engagement. Techniques associated with thematic content analysis and grounded theory were used to analyze the data and generate hypotheses. Results: Three potential pathways via which school effects on drug use may occur were identified: (1) peer-group sorting and drug use as a source of identity and bonding among students who are disconnected from the main institutional markers of status; (2) students’ desire to “fit in” at schools perceived to be unsafe and drug use facilitating this; and/or (3) drug use as a strategy to manage anxieties about school work and escape unhappiness at schools lacking effective social support systems. Conclusions: Various pathways may plausibly underlie school effects on drug use. These support the idea of “whole-school” interventions to reduce drug use through: recognizing students’ varied achievements and promoting a sense of belonging, reducing bullying and aggression, and providing additional social support for students. Such interventions should be piloted and evaluated in a range of settings to examine effects on students’ drug use. Broader policies relating to secondary school targets, curricula, assessment, and streaming may also influence rates of adolescent drug use.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public Health Improvement (DECIPHer)
Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Uncontrolled Keywords: Substance misuse; Adolescents; Schools; Qualitative; Case-studies; UK
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 1054-139X
Last Modified: 12 Jun 2019 01:58

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