Publication Date


Degree Program

Department of Sociology

Degree Type

Master of Art


The purpose of this study was to test the premise of peer cluster theory which suggests that individual drug use is primarily the result of psychosocial characteristics that influence one's peer associations which, in turn, directly influences individual drug use. Using the results of a 1996 drug and alcohol survey of 1312 Western Kentucky University college students, path analysis was used to measure the influence of seven of Beauvais and Oetting's (1986) psychosocial characteristics (sex, religious importance, parental attitudes about the use of alcohol, family use of alcohol and/or drugs, success in school, age of first use, and peer associations) on the percentage of the respondent's college friends who use alcohol and/or marijuana. All of these variables were then regressed on the respondent's drug use. The results did show some support for peer cluster theory. The direct effect of the student's association with drug-using peers on individual alcohol and marijuana use was shown to have the strongest direct influence on this outcome variable. However, a few limitations of this theoretical perspective were identified. The causal model for alcohol use showed that the indirect influence of three of these psychosocial characteristics (parental attitudes on alcohol use, success in school, and age of first use) was weaker than their direct influence on individual alcohol use.


Social Psychology | Sociology