Examination of a multivariate social-psychological model of adolescent smoking decisions and of the impact of antismoking messages



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The present dissertation involved addressing two major tasks. The first task involved constructing and exploring a multivariate ecological model of adolescent smoking decisions. The formulation of this model was guided by Fishbein's behavior decision model and Rotter's social learning theory. The model which was constructed incorporated variables which are customarily studied such as health beliefs and demographic variables, plus newly constructed social-psychological variables based on the personal perceptions of adolescents. The primary contribution of this model over past models is the formulation and measurement of social-psychological perceptions of norms, motives, and expected consequences which relate to adolescent smoking decisions. The exploration of this multivariate model in terms of the predictions made by Fishbein's decisional model included describing what Fishbein calls the "personal" and "normative" beliefs pertinent to adolescent cigarette smoking decisions and comparing the relative importance of each type of belief to the various behavioral decisions both current and future reported by these adolescents. The second task involved an experimental evaluation of the differential impact of two nontraditional antismoking persuasive communications on the beliefs, perceived norms, attitudes, current behaviors, and intended future behaviors of adolescents with regard to cigarette smoking. One message presented information regarding the immediate physiological effects of cigarette smoking while the other proffered information to the adolescent concerning several strategies potentially useful in coping with the social pressures to smoke emanating from peers, parental models and media ads. Analyzing the information processed and the beliefs affected by these messages was the central focus of this task. Students attending ninth grade health classes (n=431) from two high schools served as subjects in a nine-week pretest-treatmentposttest quasi-experimental field study. Measurements were obtained by having students complete a 79-item questionnaire which was developed and pretested in a pilot study involving 339 students. Analyses revealed important male-female and smoker-nonsmoker differences in social-psychological perceptions and health beliefs. The overall evaluation of the multivariate model of smoking decisions indicated that personalized social-psychological perceptions, notedly those pertaining to normative expectation of others, were significantly resurfaced as the most predictive of current smoking decisions, followed by perceived normative expectations and health beliefs. In contrast, for future smoking intentions health beliefs were most predictive, followed by demographic characteristics, perceived social pressure, and smoking environment. Finally, the experimental evaluation of the cognitive and behavior impact of two nontraditional antismoking messages demonstrated informational, persuasive, and potential behavior influence for adolescent smokers.