Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Elizabeth Fries


Cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses were conducted to examine the impact of perceived stress on current and future smoking behaviors of rural Virginia middle school students. Data were analyzed for 685 sixth grade students and 554 seventh grade students. Sixth grade students were 52% male, 53% Caucasian American (CA), and 47% African American (AA). For 7th graders, the sample was 53% female and 56% CA (44% AA). Of the 685 sixth grade students, 7% reported that they had smoked cigarettes at least once during the past 30 days (n=46,63% male and 67% CA). By the 7th grade, the percentage of smokers had increased to 13% (n=74, 56% female; 65% CA), A mean perceived stress score for 6th graders was 4.7 (SD=3.1, range=0-12). By the 7th grade, students reported a mean perceived stress level of 5.3 (SD=3.2, range 0-12).A logistical regression revealed that 6th grade stress was predictive of 6th grade "current" smoking (odds ratio=1.2, CI=1.04-1.3), and "ever" smoking statuses (OR=l.1, CI=1.1-1.2). Results also revealed that 7th grade stress was predictive of 7th grade "current" smoking status (OR=1.1, CI=1.02-1.2). Prospective results revealed that 6th grade stress was predictive of 7th grade "current" smoking (OR = 1.2, CI=1.1-1.3). Results also revealed that gender was predictive of both 6th (OR=2.0, CI=1.1-3.7) and 7th (OR=1.5, CI=1.1-2.5) "current" smoking, such that boys were more likely to smoke than girls for each grade. Also more 6th grade Caucasian Americans reported a "current" smoking status than did 6th grade African Americans (OR=2.0, CI = 1.03-3.7). Surprisingly, more African-American 7th graders reported an "ever" smoking status than did 7th grade Caucasian Americans (OR=.55, .37-.82). These data appear promising in that smoking rates range from 7 to 13%. Nevertheless, smoking rates tend to increase with age; thus, adolescents are in need of interventions that prevent smoking initiation and increase cessation. Adolescents may benefit from the addition of stress management components in interventions aimed at teaching more positive ways of coping with perceived stress.


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Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

June 2008

Included in

Psychology Commons