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CHAPTER V CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS PDF Print E-mail
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Books - Pot Smoking and Illegal Conduct
Written by Mohammad Nawaz   
Thursday, 24 January 2013 00:00

Introduction

This study is an attempt to explore and to help explain involvement in marihuana use among Canadian university students. For this purpose, a perspective on the social conditions of a campus youth culture has been presented in Chapter I. The central point of our theory is that illegal conduct among university students emerges from their conformity to socially defined, normal, role performance in the youth culture, and that the students' active involvement in legitimate, youth culture activities explains their differential involvement in certain forms of illegal conduct. A set of general propositions and operational hypotheses was derived from our theoretical perspective. Each hypothesis predicted the direction of relationship between dependent and independent variables. The control variables for the hypotheses are presented in Chapter II. Chapter III contains a description of the major research instrument, scales and indexes, and the major variables that were used in the analysis of the data. In Chapter IV, the hypotheses are tested and the observed relationships are interpreted in terms of some social processes that illuminate the character of the students' involvement in marihuana use and other illegal conduct.

This chapter is composed of two parts. In part I we summarize the conclusions of this research. Part II is devoted to a brief statement of the implications of this study.

I. CONCLUSIONS

The background variables, e.g., socio-economic status, sexual status, role-orientation, year of study at the university, and major field of study, did not explain an appreciable amount of variance in the students' involvement in marihuana use and their involvement in illegal activity.

A comparison of the data on subsamples of males, females, and high, medium, and low socio-economic statuses revealed only a few sufficiently large and/or systematic differences. Perhaps, for all subsamples, the same sets of underlying social conditions and processes affect the students' involvement in legitimate and illegal conduct.

The data generally supported and confirmed all but a few of the 52 operational hypotheses. The fact that the path coefficients were not always very large may be attributed to the heterogeneity of the subgroups within the youth culture.

The distinction between involvement in formal group and informal youth culture activities proved useful in identifying some patterns in the data and in interpreting the observed relationships among major variables. Consistent with our theory, identification with peer-group expectations positively affects the involvement in informal group activities and the institutionalization of common group activities. Marihuana use is an institutionalized component of youth culture and the students' involvement in marihuana use varies directly with their involvement in informal youth culture activities. However, active participation in formal group activities systematically predicts low involvement in marihuana use and it systematically negates the institutionalization of typical informal, social activities, e.g., dating, drinking, partying, and pot smoking. This suggests that typical informal, social activities are not functionally relevant for those who actively engage in formal activities.

Simultaneously high participation in formal group and informal youth culture activities decreases the probability of high involvement in marihuana use. It is likely that the presence of alternative sources of social and/or peer support (i.e., formal group activity) that do not involve any pressure to smoke pot increases one's ability to resist social pressure to it. This is also true of other illegal activity and the use of other illegal drugs.

University students engage in illegal activity selectively and discriminately. Their involvement is relatively higher in marginally different and fun-oriented, "minor" infractions of the law, e.g., driving a car beyond the speed limit; sneaking into a movie, game or some other performance without paying the admission price; having sexual intercourse with a member of the opposite sex in a public place; taking little things of value less than $2.00; causing a disturbance by being drunk; and using marihuana. Also, students have favourable attitudes towards gambling for money at cards, dice, etc., in a public place; sneaking into a movie, game or some other performance without paying the admission price; and illegally using and selling marihuana. Often these kinds of illegal activity are extensions and/or outcomes of the normal, respectable behaviour common among university students. Not only is the students' involvement very low in relatively more "serious" offenses, e.g., taking things of value over $2.00; possessing offensive weapons without a license; assaulting another person with the intention of causing bodily harm; and use of "hard" drugs, but also their attitudes towards relatively more "serious" illegal activity, e.g., destroying or otherwise damaging university property; assaulting another person with the intention of causing bodily harm; taking things of value over $2.00; buying, possessing, or receiving stolen property; using and selling of "hard" drugs, are generally unfavourable. The "radically different", i.e., relatively more serious illegaPactivity, is neither compatible with the routine patterns of the students' activities, nor does it have any functional relevance for their daily role performance.

Involvement in legitimate, informal youth culture activities is negatively related to attitudes favourable towards existing marihuana laws.

Both attitudes towards involvement in illegal activity and involvement in illegal activity are positively influenced by the students' active involvement in informal youth culture activities. Students' attitudes towards illegal activity positively affect their involvement in illegal activity when the effects of other youth culture variables are taken into account. In terms of our analysis of the data, it seems that the students' commitment to informal youth culture activities and marginally different social practices, e.g., pot smoking, fosters favourable attitudes towards illegal activity. These favourable attitudes lead to involvement in those kinds of illegal acts which either support or protect the student roles and identities in the youth culture.

The students' involvement in illegal activity positively affects their attitudes towards involvement in illegal drugs and their illegal drug use.

The greater the participation in formal group activities, the more favourable (i.e., the less receptive to change) the attitudes towards marihuana laws. The more receptive the students are towards change in the present marihuana laws, the more favourable are their attitudes towards marihuana use and the greater is their involvement in marihuana use.

The more favourable the attitudes towards illegal drugs the more the involvement in illegal drugs.

The more the involvement in marihuana use, the more favourable the attitudes towards involvement in other illegal drugs and the more the involvement in other illegal drugs.

The data highlight the importance of the experiential dimension of pot smoking; marihuana use plays a dominant role in confirming the user's beliefs about how it affects the user's artistic sensibilities, and in the user's perception of the "positive" social and psychological effects of pot smoking.

The higher the students' participation in formal religious activities (frequency of church attendance), the lower their involvement in marihuana use.

Unexpectedly, the more the students use marihuana, the higher their self-reported, formal academic performance.

The students who live off-campus with friends are relatively more involved in marihuana use, perhaps because there are fewer formal institutional controls, i.e., they "feel freer".

Sexual status is related to involvement in marihuana use; females are relatively less involved in marihuana use than are the males.

The causal order of several variables is problematic.

II. IMPLICATIONS

(i) Implications for Further Research and Theory: Our theory implies that both deviance and conformity emerge from the same structural source and that a special set of deviant motives is not required to explain marihuana use and some other marginally different, "sociable" forms of illegal conduct among university students.

This study explains mainly the pot smoking and illegal conduct of those students who are actively involved in youth culture affairs. Students who are not socially active in the youth culture might also engage in illegal conduct. It is yew likely that the quality and the content of their illegal behaviour may be different and it may stem from a different source, e.g., personality problems. Further research on these relatively less "sociable" students may help uncover some new dimensions and processes of illegal conduct among university students.

Since peer-group orientation and institutionalization of informal social activities are potent concepts in understanding the relative stability of youth culture practices, more research is needed to refine these concepts. In this study our operationalization of these variables is rather narrow; we used a limited number of indicators and items tapping only a few of their relevant dimensions. For example, we have focused on the perceptual dimension of institutionalization of informal youth culture activities and marihuana use. Further research including several other dimensions (e.g., the "meaning" aspect) and indicators would be useful in studying the sources of stability of legitimate and illegal practices of the youth culture.

Our study demonstrates that the distinction between involvement in formal group and informal youth culture activities is important in explaining illegal conduct among university students. Further research focused on more specific formal and informal groups on campus would be helpful in refining the concept of youth culture and in discovering some of the processes that are involved in change of behaviour in the youth culture.

Perhaps survey research is not the best method to single out some of the subtle differences in various role-orientations. A different methodology, e.g., extensive participant observation, may be relatively more suitable to study role-orientations and their relationships with illegal conduct among university students.

We have noted that the causal order of several variables in our analysis is problematic. Testing a different causal order may provide some alternative interpretations of the data. Also, it may help establish the degree of confidence that can be placed in the findings of this study.

Our study is based on data collected from a specific subgroup of a larger population at one point in time. Further research conducted at several points in time and employing a larger cross-section of groups would increase understanding of the social structural sources of both deviant and conforming behaviour.

(ii) Implications for Practical Programmes: Policy based on the theory and the findings of this study would require some fundamental changes in major institutions, e.g., family, school, religion, etc.. Our perspective suggests that the institutionalization of illegal conduct among university students is concomitant with the institutionalization of youth culture activities among these students. It implies that prior to the development of youth culture, the incidence and variety of certain kinds of illegal activity was very likely minimal. The social organization of the students' lives and their conduct according to relatively more explicit institutional rules might have prevented their easy and unlimited access to each other in informal social situations. This in turn, might have prevented widespread illegal conduct from developing. As long as informal youth culture activities are firmly institutionalized and supported by major institutions of the society, marihuana use and other similar activities are likely to persist among relatively young people. The positive relationship between attitudes towards illegal activity and involvement in informal youth culture activities indicates the relative stability of illegal conduct in the youth culture.

The fact that involvement in formal group activity is negatively related to involvement in marihuana use, and the finding that high participation in both formal group and informal youth culture activities together decreases the probability of marihuana use have the following important implications for "drug policy" in Canada: (1) programmes designed to encourage greater participation in formal group activity would help reduce marihuana use among young people, (2) more opportunities to engage in formal group activities would result in reduced rates of drug use, and (3) motivating those who are highly involved in informal youth culture activities for an increased participation in formal group activities would change the drug-using habit of regular users and it would forestall the involvement of new and potential converts to drug use.

Our findings suggest that students' increased involvement in marihuana use is related to their unfavourable attitudes towards existing marihuana laws. This implies that introduction and enforcement of relatively more liberal laws with which people identify may help reduce marihuana use among young people. A majority (66.4%) of our sample expressed opinion that the existing marihuana laws should be changed and that marihuana should be available to anyone of age 18 or over. It seems that along with the more liberal laws, a comprehensive and well-designed drug education programme would be a step in the right direction.

 

Our valuable member Mohammad Nawaz has been with us since Thursday, 31 January 2013.

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