How Generalizable Are Adolescents' Beliefs About Pro-Drug Pressures and Resistance Self-Efficacy?

by Ron D. Hays, Phyllis L. Ellickson

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Based on three waves of data from 1,261 adolescents, this study examines the nature of resistance self-efficacy in relation to different drugs and social situations, as well as its relationship to perceived pressure to use drugs. The authors found that both self-efficacy and perceived pressure to use drugs appear to be generalizable across substances (alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana), but adolescents do tend to distinguish between their capacity to resist drugs in different social situations. Adolescents also distinguish between how much pressure they feel and their ability to resist that pressure, but the great majority report lower levels of self-efficacy in higher-pressure situations. This relationship is strongest for alcohol and weakest for marijuana. The results imply the following for prevention programs: (1) adolescents can be taught to resist one or more of the commonly used drugs with a reasonable expectation that the skills will generalize to other drugs; (2) resistance self-efficacy learned in one situation can be expected to have some generalizability to other situations, but it may be important to link resistance training with a range of situations to ensure the greatest effectiveness; (3) to be maximally effective, prevention programs may need to help adolescents reduce the amount of pressure experienced as well as develop resistance skills; and (4) such efforts are likely to be particularly important for situations involving alcohol.

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