Neighborhood Characteristics and its Association with Problematic Cannabis Use in Truant Adolescents

Daniel Moolchand

Authors:  Daniel Moolchand, Ali M. Yurasek, Ph.D., Ricarda K. Pritschmann, M.S.

Faculty Mentor:  Ali M. Yurasek, Ph.D

College:  College of Health and Human Performance


Background: Recent research demonstrates an increase in cannabis use among adolescents. These increased prevalence rates coupled with the negative consequences associated with early cannabis use, highlights the need for more research examining risk factors and predictors of use in this population. Behavioral economic theory suggests that contextual factors such as socioeconomic status, neighborhood characteristics, and the availability of non-substance involved activities are related to substance use. This in-progress study aims to examine the relationship between environmental factors (including recreational facilities, neighborhood surroundings, and crime) and problematic cannabis use in cannabis using, truant adolescents. Method: To date, 14 truant adolescents (MAge=15.2, 85.7% female) have completed the Neighborhood Environment Walkability Scale (NEWS-Y) to determine which environmental factors are associated with their neighborhood. Participants indicate whether statements are true or false for their neighborhood using a Likert rating (1 = strongly disagree; 4 = agree), and distance to recreational facilities. Pearson’s correlations will be used to examine the associations between the proposed variables. Expected Results: Adolescents who score higher on the NEWS-Y scale will report more cannabis use and cannabis use disorder symptoms. Findings from this study can be used to identify potentially modifiable targets for intervention and prevention programs.

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12 Responses
  1. Michelle Castro

    Hi Daniel,

    Interesting study! It was surprising to me that negative neighborhood characteristics did not show a relationship with increased cannabis use in this population. Maybe there are other aspects of neighborhoods that could be skewing the results (like socioeconomic status, cultural influences from family and friends).

    Great job!

    1. Daniel Moolchand

      Hi Michelle,

      Glad you enjoyed my poster! If I were to conduct this study again, along with a larger sample size, I would include questions asking about socioeconomic factors that may have contributed to their marijuana use.

  2. Justin Daniels

    Hey Daniel, great presentation!

    What was your reasoning for choosing cannabis usage rather than other drugs? What would you expect for results if you analyzed alcohol or nicotine use?

    1. Daniel Moolchand

      Hi Justin,

      Thank you! With the rapid legalization and decriminalization of cannabis in the United States, it is important to establish the context in which people use cannabis and cannabis related products. Cannabis use has also become more prevalent in recent years, especially in the adolescent population. Socioeconomic factors, including neighborhood characteristics, have been used to explain alcohol and drug use in adolescents-the literature on those two substances varies, and I highly encourage you to look into it- so I cannot say for sure what I would have expected if I analyzed other substances. I theorize that lower walkability, higher crime rate, and other negative contextual factors would see an increase in those substance use in adolescents. Meanwhile, neighborhood characteristics have not been throughly used to examine cannabis use in adolescents, especially in truant adolescents. That is why I chose cannabis use rather than other substances or drugs such as alcohol or nicotine.

  3. Heather Gibson

    Thanks Daniel

    Interesting study. I was also curious as to why neighborhood characteristics were not influential. I wonder also if as some of your other commenters suggested we need to adopt a socio-ecological framework whereby we look at both individual and community based factors. i would have thought that access to recreation and participation in recreation programs would have had a mediating effect.

    Thanks agian!

    1. Daniel Moolchand

      Hi Heather,

      I agree! Health is a multidimensional, holistic concept that can be impacted by various factors. Addiction is one such factor that can harm health, and Cannabis Use Disorder (CUD) is a DSM-V recognized disorder that can be detrimental to adolescents.

  4. John Carriglio

    This is a similar question to one asked above, but do you think that other substances of abuse may show a better correlation with negative neighborhood characteristics? Whether that be alcohol/nicotine or harder drugs.

    1. Daniel Moolchand

      Hi John,

      Similar to the answer above, I am not entirely sure if other substances may show a better correlation with negative neighborhood characteristics. Other factors may be in play (such as adolescents using these substances at such a high rate that neighborhood characteristics hold little influence over their cannabis use) but more research is needed in these fields, especially in the truant adolescent population, before a general consensus can be reached.

  5. Macartney Ewing

    I learned a lot from this poster – it would be very interesting to see how the survey results change with a larger sample size as legality surrounding cannabis use changes in the future. Great job!

    1. Daniel Moolchand

      Hi Macartney,

      Thank you! I look forward to doing this study again, but with a larger sample size. Hopefully a more robust analysis and stronger correlation would follow!