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Title: Cannabis and young people's lives : exploring meaning and social context
Author: Highet, Gill
ISNI:       0000 0004 2712 5962
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2003
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Since the early 90s there has been no decline in regular smoking rates among 12-15 year olds in Scotland and a considerable increase in cannabis use among teenagers. This thesis aims to explore the role of cannabis in young people's lives during their early teenage years. By generating contextual data on the social situations within which young people use cannabis and the meanings they attach to this behaviour, this study aims to illuminate how participants' cannabis related beliefs, attitudes and behaviour fit within the broader contexts of their everyday lives. This study also aims to explore the links between young people's cannabis and tobacco use, building in particular on findings from a number of earlier studies. The study used qualitative methods, interviewing 59 young people, aged 13-15, primarily in selfselected friendship pairs within the informal setting of youth clubs. In using this relatively novel approach, the study also has a methodological focus, contributing to debates about researching young people's perspectives. The participants were drawn from different socio-economic backgrounds with a range of patterns of use/non-use of both cannabis and cigarettes. The interviewing and analysis of data were based upon a methodology which assumes that it is possible to learn about young people's social worlds through qualitative interviewing. Through these interviews, `stories' were co-produced and then analysed inductively to generate theory grounded in the data. In order to explore how cannabis fits within young people's lives, the data were analysed using a framework encompassing four main contexts - family, peers, local neighbourhood and aspects of broader culture. Analysis of the interview data revealed that young cannabis users employ a discourse of ambiguity when talking about parents' `knowing' about their cannabis use. For some young people, particularly boys, cannabis appears to play a central role in street based leisure cultures, although this was more apparent in some local areas than in others. Within this context, cannabis was closely linked to aspects of social identity, in particular achieving peer status and recognition. Its use was also associated with demonstrating independence in a context of adult-free space. Placing the study in a broader cultural context, the current debate surrounding cannabis control was also found to be of considerable interest to many young people, cannabis users and non-users alike. For some 'cannabisoriented' participants, their cannabis use also seemed to support and sustain their cigarette smoking behaviour, a finding that has implications for the development of effective smoking cessation programmes. A methodological analysis suggested that using friendship pairs is a promising approach to researching young people's perspectives. This method enables young people to express themselves and demonstrate their knowledge and reasoning in reflective and sophisticated ways, providing occasional glimpses into more private worlds as well as presenting well-rehearsed public accounts, especially about health promotion messages. In particular, interviewing young people in self-selected friendship pairs allows access to interactions between participants, illuminating aspects of their social relationships with one another. This thesis makes both a theoretical and a methodological contribution to our understanding of young people and their lives, particularly in relation to cannabis use, attitudes to cannabis and other health related behaviours. It highlights the significance for health promotion policy and practice of listening to young people's perspectives, in particular, their accounts of how these behaviours fit within the broader contexts of their lives.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available