Studies should be conducted of stepparenting practices that serve to stabilize family relations and minimize adolescent experimentation with gateway drugs.
Internal consistency (Cronbach's alpha) was determined for the measures of composite gateway drug use and friends' gateway drug use (Cronbach, 1951).
Using a traditional group-difference approach, the relationship of family structure to adolescent gateway drug use, affiliation with drug-using peers, and perception of peer attitudes toward drug use was investigated.
For grades 8 and 10, the stepfamily group showed more frequent overall gateway drug use and beer consumption, and the father-headed single-parent group showed more frequent cigarette and marijuana smoking, than did the intact-family group.
For grade 10, adolescents from father-headed single-parent families reported more frequent use of liquor than did adolescents from the other family structures, and more frequent beer and overall gateway drug use than did adolescents from the intact and mother-headed single-parent groups.
Since the path to harder drugs begins with the gateway drugs (cigarettes, alcohol, and marijuana), it is important for educators to focus on both individual and environmental factors which can discourage gateway drug initiation.
Self-reported gateway drug involvement, with alpha reliabilities ranging from .
Friends' gateway drug involvement was assessed with a six-item scale comprised of questions requesting students to report the number of close friends' involvement with cigarettes, marijuana, beer, wine coolers, and liquor.
Consistent with prior research, the strongest correlate of gateway drug use across all grade levels was affiliation with drug-using friends (r = .
The significant predictors of gateway drug use in the multiple regression analysis at grade 8 included number of drug-using friends, average grade in school, and extracurricular activity (Table 1).