Category: Addictive Behaviors

PS5- #C65 - Peer Influences Mediate the Relationship Between Marginalization and Tobacco Use Among Coloured South Africans

Friday, Nov 17
1:30 PM – 2:30 PM
Location: Indigo Ballroom CDGH, Level 2, Indigo Level

Keywords: Addictive Behaviors | Cultural Diversity/ Vulnerable Populations | Substance Abuse

Tobacco use, including cigarette and hookah use, remains a public health concern worldwide (Warren et al., 2006). In South Africa tobacco use is most prominent among Coloured South Africans (Flisher et al., 2003), a multiracial group whose marginality represents a distinct risk factor for substance use. Importantly, prior research has linked perceptions of marginalization by minority group members to increased substance use (Oetting et al., 1998; Wolsko, Mohatt, Lardon, & Burket, 2009). Previous research has also established peer substance use as a strong predictor of individuals’ own substance use (e.g. Baer, 2002). This effect has also been demonstrated among South African individuals, with one study finding that peer substance use was one of the strongest predictors of individual use in this population (Brook, Morojele, Pahl, & Brook, 2006). Peer attitudes toward substance use have also been found to predict individual use (e.g. Lee et al., 2007), though this relationship has not been examined among South African individuals. While marginalization may be an important factor in understanding substance use, and tobacco use in particular, among Coloured South Africans, peer tobacco use and peer attitudes toward tobacco may also play role in influencing individual tobacco use. The present study examined whether peer influences, including peer tobacco use and peer attitudes toward use, mediate the relationship between perceptions of marginalization and individual tobacco use among Coloured South Africans.


Participants in this study were 361 self-identified Coloured South African young adults from Cape Town, South Africa (Mage = 21.32), 90% of whom were under the age of 24. The sample was 51.2% female and 47.2% male.  Using student groups and community-based organizations, participants were recruited via flyers and word-of-mouth from the University of the Western Cape (n = 97, 26.9%) and local communities (n = 264, 73.1%). Participants completed questionnaires assessing perceptions of group marginalization, individual tobacco use, peer tobacco use, and peer attitudes toward tobacco.


Structural equation modeling was used to test the relationships between marginalization, peer tobacco use, peer tobacco attitudes, and individual tobacco use. Results revealed that marginalization predicted more peer tobacco use (β = -.182, p < .01) and more permissive peer tobacco attitudes (β = .192, p < .01). Peer tobacco use (β = .470, p < .001) and peer tobacco attitudes (β = -.261, p < .01) both predicted individual tobacco use. In addition, peer tobacco use and peer tobacco attitudes both mediated the relationship between marginalization and individual use. The model specifying these relationships adequately fit the data (RMSEA = .05; SRMR = .03).


The results of this study will aid in understanding the role of cultural factors, such as peer influences in tobacco use among at-risk populations. Results may have implications for treatment of tobacco use among Coloured South Africans; peer tobacco use and peer attitudes may represent a target for intervention in this population.

Jacob L. Scharer

Doctoral Student
University of Missouri - St. Louis
St. Louis, Missouri

Matthew Taylor

Associate Professor
University of Missouri - St. Louis
St. Louis, Missouri

Nicolette Roman

University of the Western Cape, South Africa

Kristina Linden

University of Missouri - St. Louis