Bullying Involvement and Adolescent Substance Use: A Study of Multilevel Risk and Protective Factors
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Bullying, frequent drunkenness, and frequent cannabis use are significant health-risk behaviours among youth. While many studies have demonstrated that bullying involvement may initiate a developmental pathway to both types of frequent substance use, there is a limited understanding of the connection between these behaviours. The presence of risk and protective factors within youths’ relationships and within their neighbourhoods may alter the associations between bullying involvement and both types of frequent substance use. A systemic approach is needed to assess the complex, social environments in which youth are embedded. The current thesis consists of two studies that examined the associations between bullying and both types of frequent substance use within the context of youths’ social environments. In Study 1, multilevel modeling was used to examine the associations between bullying and frequent substance use within the context of individual and neighbourhood risk factors. Our results indicated that the risk factors associated with both frequent drunkenness and frequent cannabis use exist at both levels, with neighbourhoods altering the association of individual risk factors. Moreover, bullying was a unique risk factor associated with both types of frequent substance use, whereas indirect associations were observed for victimization. Study 2 used a similar methodology to examine the association between bullying and both types of frequent substance use within the context of individual and neighbourhood protective factors. Once again, our results indicated that the protective factors associated with both types of frequent substance use exist at multiple levels, and that neighbourhoods altered the association of individual protective factors. Additionally, positive relationship characteristics interacted with the link between bullying and both types of frequent substance use. Together, these findings clarify the nature of the bullying-substance use link and emphasize the need to study adolescent development in context.