A Comparison of Adolescents in Foster Care and Their Peers in High School: A Study of Substance Use Behaviors and Attitudes

Alana Siegel, Rami Benbenishty, Ron Avi Astor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


While adolescents in foster care are known to be more at risk for substance abuse, existing studies have significant limitations in their methodology, making it challenging to gauge the extent of current use of drugs, tobacco, and alcohol compared with their same-age peers not in care. This article examined data collected from adolescents currently in foster care alongside their same-aged peers within the same high schools in California, in order to learn more about existing rates of and attitudes toward substance use. California is the most populous state in the country with the highest number of children in foster care. Data were drawn from 166,521 students who were both in and out of foster care and were currently in the ninth and eleventh grades; this sample was comprised of 165,815 non-foster youths and 706 students in foster care. The adolescents completed the 2012–2013 administration of the California Health Kids Survey (CHKS). This study provides a clearer picture of current substance usage, finding that California adolescents in care are more likely to use substances than their same-aged peers, even after controlling for their demographic background characteristics. It was also found that attitudes regarding potential harm in using substances (2.29 versus 2.11), difficulty in obtaining substances (3.17 versus 3.24), and negative attitudes toward substance users (1.93 versus 2.18) were stronger for youths in foster care compared to their peers with similar demographic backgrounds who are not in care. Suggestions for interventions are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)530-538
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Child and Adolescent Substance Abuse
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


  • adolescents
  • attitudes
  • foster care
  • substance use


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