Escalation of marijuana use: Application of a general theory of deviant behavior

H. B. Kaplan, S. S. Martin, R. J. Johnson, C. A. Robbins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Scopus citations


Drawing from a variety of perspectives on deviance, the authors offer a general theory and specific hypotheses for why some people become regular users of marijuna. They estimate a patch model that explains escalation of marijuana use using 23 variables modelled in four stages. Subjects (N = 1,229) are young adults who reported using marijuana at least once. The analysis uses data provided at two points in a panel study: in the seventh grade, by self-administered questionnaire, and as young adults (23-25 years old), by household interview. Results of the path analysis provide support for many of the theoretical expectations. Demographic controls have significant effects but do not negate a variety of psychosocial effects. Seventh-grade measures of peer acceptance and avoidant defensive tendencies directly predict escalation of marijuana use, while other seventh-grade measures have indirect effects on escalation of use through age of first trying marijuana and through the circumstances and consequences of first trying marijuana. Specifically, the later one tries marijuana, the less likely one is to increase use. Also, trying marijuana at a time of psychological distress and trying it without peer motivation predict escalated use. Moreover, consequences of initial use (i.e., weakening of ties with significant others and adverse physical or psychological outcomes) further affect increased marijuana use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)44-61
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of health and social behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1986
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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