Leisure Time Use and Academic Correlates of Alcohol Abuse Among High School Students

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1 Leisure Time Use and Academic Correlates of Alcohol Abuse Among High School Students James E. Pendorf Psychiatry Service VA Medical Center High school students use of alcohol is examined in relation to leisure time use and attitudes toward school climate. Male and female students in grade 10 (11=1 15) and grade 12 (n=107) in a rural Pennsylvania high school were surveyed. Heavy use of alcohol correlated with participation in social and vocational activities. Heavy users enjoyed school and school subjects less, had greater potential for conflicts with teachers, and received lower grades. This study demonstrates heavy alcohol use bears a relationship to aspects of social and vocational behaviors and attitudes fe quired for healthy and positive adolescent development. The results of this study cloud the generalized detrimental effects from high school students' heavy use of alcohol. Introduction and Purpose (I) People drink alcohol for a variety of reasons which include recreation, social, and relaxation; some drink as an addiction (Blum, 1982; Murray & Stabenau, 1982). Alcohol is widely known to cause a variel)' of personal problems. It has been related to criminal behaviors (Matsunage, 1983; Hammond, 1978), accidents and employment absenteeism (APA, 1980; Quayle, 1983), and behavioral changes and relationship difficulties (Ray, 1983; McCrady, 1982). (2) Historically, studies on alcohol abuse have focused on adults. For example, studies have typically examined alcohol's relationship with driving skills and abilities (Nathan, 1983), employment issues (Knott & Beard, 1982), health (Feldman, 1982; Matsunage, 1983; APA, 1980), and psychological and behavioral factors (e.g., judgment and coordination) (Ray, 1983). Recent attention has focused on a wider population to include adolescents (Keys & Block, 1984; Gordon & McAlister, 1982; Johnston, O'Malley, & Bachman, 1984). Efforts have also been made to educate society, including adolescents, about the effects of alcohol, evidenced by such national groups as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD). (3) Adolescents' use of alcohol is becoming more problematic. Most adolescents drink alcohol before Reprinted with pennission from Joun/al olalcohol alld Dmg Educo/ioll, 37(2): 103-t 10. Copyright 1992 by the Alcohol and Drug Problems Association ofnorth America. This study is based on the author's dissertation research. Correspondence conceming this article should be sent to James E. Pendorf, Ph.D., Administrative Coordinator, Psychiatry Service, VA Medical Center, Lebanon, PA

2 leaving high school, and nearly 6% drink on a daily basis (Johnston et ai., 1984). Over one-half of students are initiated to alcohol use before entering high school (Johnston, Bachman, O'Malley, 1982; Keys & Block, 1984; Lowman, 1981). It must be emphasized that alcohol by itself is seldom the only drug used by high school students (Johntson et ai., 1984). Other drugs used include marijuana, cocaine, and hallucinogens, although with much less frequency (Johntson et ai., 1984). However, alcohol is the drug first used, initiating the onset to this behavior and possible exposure to a wider availability of drugs. Subsequently, alcohol abuse is considered the major drug problem facing America's youth. (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 1980) (4) Adolescents who are heavy users of alcohol are reported as less happy (Conger & Petersen, 1984), of lower expectations of the future (Gordon & McAlister, 1982), of lower grades (Conger & Petersen, 1984), of resisting or alienated from traditional adult values (Gordon & McAlister, 1982; Savickas, 1984), and personally dissatisfied and alienated (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 1984). Such social and academic difficulties would be expected to interfere with important developmental tasks awaiting the adolescent. This imponance is underscored by adolescence being a time of significant emotional and social growth, requiring the suppon of family and peers, and school achievement. (5) Tasks facing the adolescent are basically three fold: to learn imponant social skills (Conger & Petersen, 1984), to engage in self-discovery and identity development (Marcia, 1966; Super, Starishevsky, Matlin & Jordan, 1963), and to enter into vocational activity leading to future vocational choices (Walsh & Osipow, 1983; Vondracek & Lerner, 1982). For this, positive parental, peer and school influences are important for optimal development (Miller, 1974). These influences are found in the home, through use of leisure pursuits and at school. Leisure pursuits may include entertainment and social activities, studying, involvement in sports and religion, hobbies and related activities, and vocational activity. Students' attitudes toward school may be measured by achievement (grades); and attitudes held toward school, teachers, and course subjects. For many high school students the majority of their time is spent away from home, and certainly away from parents and adult figures. Most adolescents also consume alcohol away from home where critical developmental tasks occur.. (6) The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between high school students' use of alcohol, their use ofleisure time, and their attitudes toward school climate. Because consequences of heavy alcohol use are associated with behaviors and attitudes detrimental to critical development associated with, and dependent upon, leisure pursuits - social and personal behaviors - and attitudes and behaviors associated with school involvement, it was predicted that heavy alcohol use would bear negative relationships with all these variables. Participants Method (7) A rural Pennsylvania high school was surveyed to examine the relationship between students' alcohol use and their attitudes toward their school climate, and their use ofleisure time. Panicipants included th grade (n~115) and 12th grade (n=107) students. Students were predominately white, 15 to 19 years of age, and were in various curricula ranging from general to college and vocational studies. Data were collected at the beginning ofthe school year. Questionnaire (8) Swisher's Primary Prevention Awareness, Attitude, and Usage Scales, Form 7 (Swisher, 1983), was used to collect data relative to the student's alcohol behaviors, attitudes, and values. The questionnaire contains 79 items and takes about 30 minutes to complete. It also assesses leisure time activities and attitudes held toward school, teachers, and subjects, and the respondent's grade point average (GPA). (9) Data were collected on a continuous scale for alcohol use. This ranges, for specific drugs used, from "never use," "used before," and use including, "once or twice per year," "once or twice per month," "once or twice per week," "once or twice per day," and "often, each day." Time use variables include Entertainment and Social Activities (movies, dating, parties, etc.), Academic Activities (homework, reading, school projects, etc.), Spons (any physical sports activity), Religious Activities, Extra-curricular Activities and Hobbies (school clubs, collecting stamps or coins, caring for pets, musical instruments, working on cars, etc.), and Vocational Activities (looking for a job or working pan-time, etc.). These variables are also scored on a continuous scale of "never," "once or twice a year," "once or twice a month~" "once or twice a week," "once or twice a day," and "many hours" a day. The Form 7 contains other items related to attitudes and values held 116

3 toward drug and alcohol behaviors. Only alcohol use frequency, leisure time, and school climate items were analyzed in this study. (10) A "lie item" consisting of a non-existent drug was included in the list of possible drugs ever having been used. If a student reported using this "drug" the student's entire testing was discarded. Only a very few tests were discarded for this reason of carelessness or dishonesty. Alpha reliability of the Swisher scale ranges from.63 to.74 on School Climate subscales and from.83 to.90 on Self Reported Drug and Alcohol Use. Good validity across the Form 7 subscales is also reported (Swisher, Shute, & Bibeau, 1984). Procedure (11) Students and their parents were informed of the study and consent was obtained from all but a few parents. Teachers were instructed on test administration two weeks before testing. Uniform instructions were prepared for teachers to read to students. Data collection was conducted in homeroom classes to assure all students would be tested. Anonymity was assured to all participants, and at the end of testing participants could deposit their questionnaires in a stack in whatever order they wanted. The students not receiving parental approval to participate in the study waited in the school library under faculty supervision. Result. (12) Alcohol use was divided first by type ofbever age (beer, wine, and hard liquor) then separated into "use" and "abuse." Students reporting use ofany type of alcohol weekly or more often were classified as heavy users, or abusers. Scoring the Form 7 resulted in low scores corresponding with low alcohol use, less frequent leisure time comntitment, negative artitudes toward school, school teachers, and school courses, and high grades. The sample size was nearly evenly distributed between the grade 10 students (n= 115) and grade 12 students (n=107) making nearly equivalent groups. (13) Table I illustrates how Time Use variables correlate with different types of alcohol use. Entertainment and social activities correlated with beer, wine, and hard liquor use. This demonstrates that these socially active adolescents are more involved in overall alcohol use. Time spent with school work correlates negatively with beer and hard liquor use meaning that heavier drinkers of these beverages spend less time with school homework, school projects, and/or reading. Participation in Sports activities is not correlated with alcohol use. Not surprisingly, youth reporting heavier alcohol use also report less involvement with religious activities. Hobbies and Extracurricular activities correlate negatively with beer use and wine use suggesting that beer and wine users, but not hard liquor users, are less involved with extracurricular school activities or hobbies. Involvement with vocational activities is positively correlated with the use of each beverage type. In other words youth who report more involvement with work ing, or who are at least looking for work, are heavier users ofalcohol. (14) Table 2 represents how School Climate variables correlate with different types of alcohol use. Lower grade point averages are correlated with beer, wine, and hard liquor use as are negative feelings toward the enjoyment of school. Students' feelings toward teachers correlate negatively with alcohol use in all three forms suggesting that heavy drinkers hold low opinions of their teachers' helpfulness. Students' feelings about school subjects also correlate negatively with beer use and hard liquor use. (15) To summarize, heavy use of alcohol by high school students positively correlates with social and vocational involvement. In addition, heavy alcohol use correlates with less enjoyment of school or school Table I. Summary of Correlations with Time Use Variables Measure Beer.28** -.26** Wine.25** -.12 Hard liquor.37** p <.OS Entertainment & activities School work Sports Hobbies & Vocational Religion activities activities -.23** p <

4 Table 2. Summary ofcorrelations with School Climate Variables Grade-point Feel about Measure. average Enjoy school teachers Beer.18** -.29** -.30** Wine.13* -.22** -.17** Hard Liquor.21** -.24** -.29** 'p <.05 "p<.01 Feel about subjects -.17** subjects. Heavy alcohol users have more negative feelings toward teachers and receive lower grades. Discussion (16) This study addressed high school students' use of alcohol with different leisure time activity and school attitude variables. Limitations are that it was conducted in a rural setting, and that it did not assess racial or gender differences. There were no significant differences found between 10th and 12th grade students in their overall use ofalcohol, yet heavy use ofalcohol by 12th grade male participants was somewhat less than for the 10th grade males. Females' use of alcohol showed an increase between the 10th and 12th grade. This is not surprising since more adolescent females are using alcohol than before (Johnson et ai., 1982; Johnson et ai., 1984). (17) This study also found a positive relationship between alcohol use and social and vocational activities, suggesting that heavy users of alcohol are going out, dating, and attending movies and parties more, and are job searching and working part-time more than are light users. Surprisingly, heavy use of alcohol correlates with social and vocational activities, tasks critical to healthy adolescent development. Learning social skills, self-discovery, and entry into vocational activity, do not seem affected by heavy alcohol use. To the contrary, heavy use ofalcohol may be more available in these settings. Certainly peer influence leads to alcohol use, while a vocational setting provides both funds and access to people to supply it. Thus, growth suppottive activities - social and vocational - provide opportunity to obtain and use alcohol. However, heavy alcohol use correlates with lower grades, less enjoyment of school and school subjects, and a more negative view of teachers, that is, growth restrictive outcomes. (18) Positive post-high school and career outcomes result from establishing personal identity, learrting social roles, vocational entry, and from good school work (Vondracek & Schulenberg, 1984; Super, 1985). This study clouds allegations of generalized ill effects of alcohol abuse during the middle and late adolescent years during high school; heavy alcohol users were socially and vocationally oriented, but were not as well applied in school as were low alcohol users. Certainly follow-up studies need to be conducted to determine the strength, the magnitude, and even the direction of personal, s0 cial, and vocational choices made by students during their high school years. (19) Application of these results in any setting fostering vocational or academic growth among adolescents, or any setting treating adolescent alcohol problems, should be tempered with caution. While students who are socially active are also more inclined to abuse alcohol, the same group of students takes a dimmer view of school, school subjects, and school teachers. Perhaps this knowledge of contrast of growth supportive and growth restrictive adolescent alcohol use patterns could lend themselves to approaching high school students in alcohol use ptevention, or in personal counseling settings. in any event, it may not be prudent for adults to suggest that alcohol use is entirely bad when adolescents know that it may indeed serve as an important springboard into self-discovery, acqniring friends, and acqniring self-esteem through social and entertainment channels. Such general "advice" from parents or adult figures may only serve to damage their own credibility, adding to the "generation gap" casually referred to when attitudinal differences prevail between generations. References American Psychiatric Association (1980). Diagnastic and statistical manual ofmental disorders (3rd ed.). Washington, DC: Author. Blum, K. (1982). Neurophysiological effects of alcohol. In E.M. Pattison & E. Kaufman (Eds.), Encyclopedic handbook of alcoholism (pp ). New York: Gardner. 118

5 Conger, J.J. & Petersen, A.C.(l984). Adolescence and youth: Psychological development in a changing world (3rd ed.). San Francisco: Harper & Row. Feldman, E.B. (1982). Malnutrition in the alcoholic and related nutritional deficiencies. In E.M. Pattison & E. Kaufman (Eds.). Encyclopedic handbook ofalcoholism (pp ). New York: Gardner. Gordon, N.P. & McAlister, A.L. (1982). Adolescent drinking: Issues and research. In T. Coates (Ed.), Promoting adolescent health: A dialogue on research and practice (pp ). New York: Academic Press. Hammond, RL. (1978). Almost all you ever wanted to know about alcohol but didn't know who to ask. (Michigan Alcohol and Drug Information Foundation), Lansing, Ml: Author. Johnston, L.D., O'Malley, R.M., & Bachman, J.D. (1982). Monitoring the future: Questionnaire responses from the nation's high school seniors Ann Arbor, Ml: Institute for Social Research. Johnston, L.D., O'Malley, RM. & Bachman, J.D. (1984). Highlights from drugs and American high school students Rockville, MO: National Institute on Drug Abuse. Keys, S. & Block, J. (1984). Prevalence and patterns of substance use among early adolescents. Journal of Youth andadolescence, 13, Knott, D.H. & Beard, J.E. (1982). Effects of alcohol ingestion on the cardiovascular system. In E.M. Pattison & E. Kaufman (Eds.), Encyclopedic handbook of alcoholism (pp ). New York: Gardner. Lowman, C. (1981). Prevalence of alcohol use among u.s. senior high school students (Facts for Planning No. I, RP 0346). Rockville, MO: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Marcia, J.E. (1966). Development and validation of ego-identity status. Journal ofpersonality and Social Psychology, 3, Matsunage, S. (1983). The federal role in research, treatment, and prevention of alcoholism. American Psychologist, 38, McCrady, B.S. (1982). Marital dysfunction: Alcoholism and marriage. In E.M. Pattison & E. Kaufman (Eds.), Encyclopedic handbook of alcoholism (pp. 673~85). New York: Gardner. Miller, D. (1974). Adolescence: Psychology, psychopathology and psychotherapy. New York: Aronson. Murray, R.M. & Stabenau, J.R. (1982). Genetic factors in alcoholism predisposition. In E.M. Pattison & E. Kaufman (Eds.), Encyclopedic handbook ofalcoholism (pp. 3-30). New York: Gardner. Nathan, P.E. (1983). Failures in prevention: Why we can't prevent the devastating effect of alcoholism and drug abuse. American Psychologist. 38(4), National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (1984). Alcohol use and abuse among youth (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Publication No. RP 0257). Rockville, MO: National Clearinghouse for Alcohol Information. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (1980). Alcohol and youth (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Publication No. RP 0067). Rockville, MO: National Clearinghouse for Alcohol Information. Quayle, D. (1983). American productivity: The devastating effect of alcoholism and drug abuse. American Psychologist, 38, Ray, O. (1983). Drugs, SOCiety, and human behavior (3rd). St. Louis: C. V. Mosby. Savickas, M.L. (1984, June). Career maturity: The construct and its measurement. The Vocational Guidance Quarterly, 33, Super, D.E. (1985). Coming of age in Middletown: Careers in the making. American Psychologist, 40(4), Super, D.E., Starishevsky, R., Matlin, N. & Jordan, J.P. (I%3). Career development: Self-concept theory. New York: Columbia University, Teachers College. Swisher, J.D. (1983). Primary prevention awareness. attitudes. and usage scales. Slate College, PAc Database. Swisher, J.D., Shute, RE. & Bibeau, D. (1984, June). Assessing drug and alcohol abuse: An instrument for planning and evaluation. Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development. 17, Vondracek, F.W. & Lerner, RM (1982). Vocational role development in adolescence. In B. Wolman (Ed.), Handbook of developmental psychology (pp. 602~14). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Vondracek, F.W. & Schulenberg, J.E. (1984). Adolescence and careers. In R.M. Lerner & N. Galambos (Eds.), Experiencing adolescents: A sourcebook for parents, teachers, and teens (pp ). New York: Garland. Walsh, W.B. & Osipow, S.H. (1983). Handbook ofvocational psychology: Val 2. Applications. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. F acf"i1.ll.<ijll QuestiOIll.S 1. Nearly what percentage of high school students consume alcohol on a daily basis? 119

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