The Effect of Negative Emotion on Drug Use Among High School Dropouts: An Empirical Test of General Strain Theory

Laurie Drapela, Washington State University, Vancouver

While classic strain theory has been applied to the problem of dropout and delinquency, general strain theory has been largely absent from this body of research. Given the barriers to economic and social advancement faced by many high school dropouts, leaving high school before graduation definitely serves as a negative life event capable of drawing negative parental reactions. These negative reactions are a likely source of strain for the dropout, creating negative emotions and possibly leading to drug use. The following study uses a cohort of dropouts from the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1998 (NELS:88) to examine the associations between parental reactions to dropping out of high school, negative emotion, and drug use. The relationship between these three variables is assessed net of social bonds and delinquent peer associations, two other factors affecting adolescent drug use. Preliminary results support the causal chain articulated by general strain theory.

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Updated 05/20/2006