Featured Article: LCA on Trends in Teen Marijuana Use

October 17, 2018:jlb

Over the last several years, laws about marijuana use have been changing across the United States. Methodology Center researchers Jessica Braymiller, Ashley Linden-Carmichael, and Stephanie Lanza wanted to know how marijuana use and attitudes about marijuana use might be changing in the face of those legal changes. In a recent article in Journal of Adolescent Health, the authors examined these questions using data from the 2010-2016 waves of the Monitoring the Future study.

The authors applied latent class analysis (LCA) to reveal patterns in marijuana use and attitudes among high school seniors in the United States. The analysis revealed that beginning in 2014, increases were observed in two subgroups: nonusers who are tolerant of marijuana use and marijuana users who generally approve of marijuana use at any level (i.e., experimentation, occasional use, and regular use).

Jessica Braymiller, graduate student at The Methodology Center and lead author on this paper, explained the implications of these findings. “Our findings indicate that many high school seniors in the United States have used marijuana recently and/or have approving attitudes regarding marijuana use at any frequency. Interestingly, the prevalence of these subgroups have increased in recent years, and males are most likely to belong to these subgroups. Since many adolescents are tolerant of marijuana use by the time they reach 12th grade, prevention and intervention efforts should address marijuana use behaviors and related attitudes early on.”

She went on to describe the value of applying latent class models to mature panel data like Monitoring the Future. “LCA allows researchers to categorize and describe individuals based on variety of shared characteristics. This approach is particularly useful in the context of nationally representative data sets, as we are able to comprehensively examine patterns of multiple behaviors and attitudes within a given population. Further comparing these patterns based on demographic characteristics enables researchers to identify population subgroups who may be at risk, having important implications for prevention and intervention efforts.”

Open the article.


Braymiller, J. L., Masters, L. D., Linden-Carmichael, A. N., & Lanza S. T. (2018) Contemporary patterns of marijuana use and attitudes among high school seniors: 2010–2016. Journal of Adolescent Health, 63(4), 394-400.