Social support as a buffer between discrimination and cigarette use in juvenile offenders

Alexandra Hershberger, Tamika Zapolski, Matthew C. Aalsma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Scopus citations


Cigarette use is a prominent problem in juvenile offenders, leading to negative health outcomes and substance use. One interesting precipitator of cigarette use in this population is discrimination. Social support could potentially buffer the positive relationship between cigarette use and discrimination in juvenile offenders, which could be dependent on the context in which the discrimination is experienced, such as peer, institutional (e.g., stores, restaurants), or educational contexts. The present study explored the relationship between three types of discrimination, social support, and smoking outcomes among 112 detained and probated juvenile offenders (mean age = 16.24, SD = 2.11, 29.2% female, 54.9% Caucasian, 40.4% detention, 53.8% smokers). Results indicated that the relationship between institutional discrimination (OR = -. 0.10, p = 0.005) and peer discrimination (OR = -. 0.11, p = 0.01) were significantly moderated by social support, with a higher likelihood of being a smoker, compared to a non-smoker at higher levels of peer and institutional discrimination. Further, based on a moderated regression analysis, results indicated that youth who experienced greater educational discrimination and lower levels of social support, they were at higher risk of nicotine addiction (b = -. 0.09, p = 0.03). Overall, results indicate that varying avenues of social support, such as parent, peer, and teacher support, can mitigate negative effects of discrimination on juvenile offenders, particularly cigarette use. Addressing discrimination in smoking treatment and prevention in juvenile offenders may be of great utility. Future studies should examine the potential mechanisms underlying the discrimination and cigarette use connection in juvenile offenders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7-11
Number of pages5
JournalAddictive Behaviors
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016


  • Cigarettes
  • Discrimination
  • Juvenile offenders
  • Social support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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