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Substance use in Portuguese and Spanish Adolescents: Highlights from Differences, Similarities and Moderating Effects

  • Celeste Simões (a1), Margarida Gaspar Matos (a1), Carmen Moreno (a2), Francisco Rivera (a3), Joan M. Batista-Foguet (a4) and Bruce Simons-Morton (a5)...


Many behaviors with lasting health impact are initiated in adolescence. Substance use is one such behavior. To analyse the factors involved in adolescent substance use among Portuguese and Spanish boys and girls, an explanatory model was developed using structural equations modelling. The model proposes that the impact of social contexts (family, friends, classmates and teachers) on substance use (tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs) is mediated by perceptions of well-being (psychological symptoms, well-being and school satisfaction). Data on 1589 Portuguese (mean age = 13.27, SD =. 59) and 4191 Spanish adolescents (mean age= 13.21; SD =.47) who took part in the HBSC/WHO survey were analysed. The model fits the data of each country (CFI >.90; RMSEA < .03) and the majority of the relationships proposed in the model have been as expected for both samples. The relations with a major effect, for both countries, were: the negative effect of family on psychological symptoms and the positive effect of family on subjective well-being; the negative effect of classmates on psychological symptoms; the positive effect of teachers on school satisfaction; the effect of psychological symptoms (negative) and school satisfaction (positive) on well-being; the negative effect of school satisfaction on tobacco and alcohol use; and the positive effect of tobacco on alcohol use, and alcohol use on cannabis. For each of the dependent factors studied (tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs), the levels of explained variance varied between 9% (for tobacco use) and 46% (for alcohol use). Some non-invariant paths were obtained in country comparisons, controlling for gender. In multivariate analyses the paths from tobacco use to cannabis and from alcohol to cannabis were significant, but much stronger for Spanish girls than Portuguese girls.

Muchos de los comportamientos que a largo plazo tendrán efectos en la salud se inician en la adolescencia, como es el caso del consumo de sustancias. Para analizar los factores que intervienen en el consumo de sustancias en chicos y chicas portugueses y españoles, se ha desarrollado un modelo explicativo utilizando modelos de ecuaciones estructurales. El modelo propone que el impacto de los contextos sociales (familia, amistades, compañeros de clase y profesorado) sobre el consumo de sustancias (tabaco, alcohol y drogas ilegales) se encuentra mediado por la percepción de bienestar (síntomas psicológicos, bienestar subjetivo y satisfacción con la escuela). Se analizaron los datos de 1589 adolescentes portugueses (edad media = 13.27; SD = .59) y 4191 adolescentes españoles (edad media = 13.21; SD = .47) que participaron en el estudio HBSC/OMS. El ajuste de los modelos a los datos de cada país (CFI > .90; RMSEA > .03) y la mayoría de las relaciones propuestas en el modelo han mostrado los resultados esperados en ambas muestras. Las relaciones con un mayor efecto para ambos países fueron las siguientes: el efecto negativo de la familia sobre los síntomas psicológicos y el efecto positivo de la familia en el bienestar subjetivo, el efecto negativo de sus compañeros de clase en los síntomas psicológicos, el efecto positivo del profesorado en la satisfacción escolar, el efecto de los síntomas psicológicos (relación negativa) y la satisfacción escolar (relación positiva) en el bienestar, el efecto negativo de la satisfacción con la escuela sobre el uso de tabaco y alcohol, la relación positiva del tabaco en el consumo de alcohol y el consumo de alcohol sobre el cannabis. Para cada uno de los factores dependientes estudiados (tabaco, alcohol y drogas ilegales) los niveles de varianza explicada oscilaron entre el 9% (para el consumo de tabaco) y el 46% (para el consumo de alcohol).Algunas relaciones se mostraron no invariantes en las comparaciones entre países, habiéndose controlando el género. En el análisis multivariado, las relaciones entre tabaco y alcohol sobre el cannabis fueron significativas en ambos países, siendo más intensas en las chicas españolas que en las chicas portuguesas.


Corresponding author

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Celeste Simões. Faculdade de Motricidade Humana, Universidade Técnica de Lisboa. Estrada da Costa 1495-688. Cruz Quebrada (Portugal). Phone: +351-214149148. Fax: +351-214151248. E-mail:


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