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Title: Towards an understanding of the adolescent smoking phenomenon : a social representations approach
Author: Thrush, Diana
ISNI:       0000 0001 3533 1326
Awarding Body: University of Surrey
Current Institution: University of Surrey
Date of Award: 1998
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This thesis is concerned with the uptake of cigarette smoking in early adolescence. In order to arrive at a fuller understanding, it takes a bilateral approach to the problem. First, it reports a large-scale, longitudinal evaluation of two pre-existing, school-based intervention programmes: a Theatre in Health Education performance and a School Smoking Policy. Both were aimed at reducing smoking prevalence amongst nine to thirteen year olds. Secondly, it reviews models of adolescent smoking behaviour and considers a large number of those factors suggested by the literature as being associated with early onset of cigarette use, investigating their ability to predict behaviour and intention. The thesis draws on data from a very large sample (n = 4,970 by Time 5), providing a major data set from which theories may be generated and tested. Having examined a large number of correlates derived from the literature, most of which are supported by these data, a model of smoking behaviour was assessed for its ability to predict smoking behaviour and intention. Findings suggest a Social Representation Theory (SRT) approach as an appropriate paradigm for further investigation Results of the evaluation study suggest that neither strategy had any sizeable impact upon the target audience, a finding which was not unexpected given that these initiatives were not fully informed by appropriate theory. Despite the plethora of research into the adolescent smoking phenomenon, these and other programmes designed to reduce its prevalence remain largely inadequate in achieving their objectives. A fuller understanding of the problem is necessary in order that we might better design programmes to reduce this behaviour. The thesis considers additional reasons for the comparative lack of success of the interventions evaluated here and concludes that future prevention programmes would benefit by taking account of different stages of smoking as well as adopting a Social Representations perspective. An exploration into an SRT model of smoking behaviour demonstrates systematic differences in representations based on perceptions of smoking-related beliefs held by parents and friends, supporting the notion that others’ views are influential through the medium of social representations of smoking. Although in several cases these representations significantly reflected self-reported behaviour and intention, no causal link was found. This lack of predictive power is explained by variations in representations from one time to another; as expected, these shifts were particularly apparent for representations based on perceived views of the friendship group. The study adopts a sophisticated research design in order to allow for a series of complex longitudinal analyses. As a result of checking the validity of self-reported smoking behaviour over five waves of data, twenty-six per cent of respondents were excluded from all behavioural and intentional analyses because of logical inconsistencies in their responses. A close examination of these data reveals various categories of inconsistency and suggests one which reflects the presence of a small sub-group who may be re-presenting their smoking history, possibly as a result of receiving the Theatre in Health Education intervention. In conclusion, the findings of this thesis contain much to suggest that an emphasis on Social Representations Theory and the Transtheoretical Model of Change are useful for informing future research in the field and the development of initiatives to reduce smoking uptake amongst young people. It is, however, suggested that methodological limitations hinder the development of a single integrative model with which to inform future prevention strategies.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Sociology