Exploring the Context of Adolescent Drug Use: Does Social Learning Theory Mediate the Impact of Social Structure

Lisa D. Holland, University of Florida

This paper explores the relationship between social structure and adolescent drug use by testing Akers Social Structure-Social Learning (SSSL) model. The SSSL model posits that while social structural characteristics (differential location in the social structure, differential social organization, theoretically defined structural correlates and differential location in primary and secondary groups) influence criminal and delinquent behavior, they do so mainly by effecting the nature and extent of associations, reinforcements, behavioral models and definitions to which an inidividual is exposed. In other words, structural effects on behavior are wholly or partially mediated by social learning concepts. To test this model individual drug use and social learning data are drawn from the Boys Town Study conducted in 1978 by Akers et al. Structural measures, population density, concentrated disadvantage, residential mobility and population at risk, were taken from the 1980 census. Multilevel modeling was employed to account for the nested structure of the data. Results reveal varying levels of support for the SSSL model, depending on drug type.

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Updated 05/20/2006