Sex Differences in Adolescent Substance Use Motives and the Prediction of Related Problems

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Hoffman, Brandi
MacLean, Michael
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Drugs of abuse--Physiological effect , Drug abuse--Psychological aspects , Teenagers--Drug use
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Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of substance use. There is also a dearth of indicated prevention programs meant to identify and address the early warning signs of substance misuse in adolescents. Research has shown that male and female adolescents differ in their motives for use, but little research indicates how predictive each motive is of related problems and how that might differ between the sexes. The purpose of the current study was to investigate sex differences in alcohol and marijuana use motives and how they predict related problems in adolescents. Methods: Participants were 1,064 youths (ages 13-22, mean = 18) who participated in an indicated prevention program in Buffalo, New York called Focus on Consequences for Adolescents (FOCA). FOCA uses a motivational-based interviewing approach to service youths referred by local courts, schools, mental health professionals or parents for substance-related problems. Motives for use were measured with the Drinking Motives Questionnaire-Revised (DMQ-R) and the Marijuana Motives Questionnaire (MMQ). Related problems were measured with Rutgers Alcohol Problem Inventory (RAPI) and the Shortened Inventory of Problems-Drugs (SIP-D) Results: Independent sample t-tests revealed that female adolescents reported significantly higher rates of coping motives and conformity motives for alcohol use (t = 3.76, p < .001; t = 1.79, p < .05 respectively) and marijuana use (t = 3.76, p < .001; t = 1.85, p < .01 respectively). A mediational path analysis was then run using structural equation modeling to assess how the motives were related to alcohol and marijuana use and their related problems and to test whether the paths were significantly different between the sexes. The path analysis revealed that coping motives were the strongest predictor of related problems for each sex and that such motives were significantly stronger predictors of problems for girls than boys. Discussion: The results indicate that female adolescents are much more likely to use alcohol and marijuana as a means of coping with negative affect and that such motives are much more closely tied to experiencing related problems than they are for boys. This suggests that indicated prevention programs could be tailored to individual motives for use and that addressing alternative means of coping with negative affect may be especially important for girls.
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