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Graduate Defense: Tara Woodward

February 26 @ 1:30 pm - 2:30 pm MST

Thesis Information

Title: Adolescent Substance Use and Structured Leisure

Program: Master of Public Health

Advisor: Dr. Mike Mann, Community and Environmental Health

Committee Members: Dr. Megan Smith, Community and Environmental Health and Dr. Holly Morehouse, Community and Environmental Health


Adolescent substance use has long been a global public health issue. In this study, we explored developmental contexts that correspond with protective and risk factors associated with adolescent substance use. The developmental contexts of interest are the family domain, the school domain, the peer domain, and the structured and unstructured leisure domains. The leisure domain is of particular interest as it often corresponds with protective and risk factors different from those associated with the other domains. The purpose of this study was to assess whether the identified domains are associated with adolescent alcohol use and cannabis use.
This study used previously collected adolescent health and behavior surveillance data from (N = ~ 3,500) 7th-12th graders in a Northeastern state in the fall of 2019. The data was used to assess whether the identified domains are associated with adolescent alcohol use and cannabis use. We analyzed each outcome variable using separate hierarchical multiple regression models.
Each of the selected variables in our analysis: family, school, peer, structured and unstructured leisure domains were significantly associated with one or both of the dependent variables (alcohol or cannabis use). Peer was the strongest predictor and risk factor for adolescent substance use in our study, followed by unstructured leisure. Family, structured leisure, and school offered similar levels of protection against substance use in per unit change.
Implications for utilizing the peer and leisure developmental contexts to prevent adolescent substance use and recommendations for further research and investment are discussed.