Drug use and conflict in inner-city African-American relationships in the 2000s.
Inner-city relationships face numerous challenges including illegal
drug use and its consequences. The nature of this challenge, however,
has changed dramatically with a shift from the crack subculture of the
1980s and early 1990s to the subsequent marijuana/blunts subculture.
This study presents data concerning 95 inner-city relationships where
illegal drug use was present from people who were interviewed in
2004-2006 and reinterviewed in 2008. Hard drug use was still problematic
in the 2000s even with the passing of the crack epidemic and its
associated behavioral norms. Hard drug (primarily crack) users reported
drug use was a problem, reported conflict over drugs, reported higher
levels of conflict than others and were the most likely to have broken
up with their partner. On the other hand, the experiences and
subcultural norms associated with marijuana use appeared to be much less
detrimental to relationship harmony. Subjects who used marijuana but not
hard drugs reported much less relationship conflict. Indeed, many
reported that they enjoyed using marijuana with their partner. These
subcultural insights further the understanding that young adults have
constructed a much more socially productive subculture regarding
marijuana use than their predecessors had constructed around use of
Keywords--African American, crack, cohabitation, conflict, marijuana, poverty
African Americans (Social aspects)
African Americans (Drug use)
Interpersonal relations (Research)
Interpersonal relations (Demographic aspects)
|Publication:||Name: Journal of Psychoactive Drugs Publisher: Haight-Ashbury Publications Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2010 Haight-Ashbury Publications ISSN: 0279-1072|
|Issue:||Date: Sept, 2010 Source Volume: 42 Source Issue: 3|
|Topic:||Temporal Scope: 2000 AD Event Code: 290 Public affairs; 310 Science & research|
|Product:||Product Code: 7754001 Marijuana|
The quality and durability of marriages and cohabitation
partnerships between poor African-American females and males have been
heavily challenged by the interrelated problems of economic marginality,
incarceration, and illegal drug use. African-American females have been
facing lower prospects for marriage due to an ever-declining ratio of
eligible African-American males to females, especially due to death and
imprisonment (Lopoo & Western 2005; Tucker & Mitchell-Kernan
1995). The economic marginality of a substantial percentage of poor
African-American males have rendered even more of them undesirable as
long-term household partners (Edin 2000; Wilson 1996). The crack
epidemic that peaked from the mid-1980s to the early 1990s further
disturbed domestic relationships in the inner city (Dunlap, Golub &
Johnson 2006; Dunlap 1992; Dunlap & Johnson 1992). Many crack users,
especially poor African Americans, organized their lives around their
drug habits and their extended binges (Johnson, Golub & Dunlap 2006;
Bourgois 1995; Ratner 1992; Williams 1992). This experience was
reminiscent of the 1960s and 1970s, when heroin had been popular in the
inner-city where it devastated many lives and families (Johnson et al.
1985; Preble & Casey 1969). Drug users constantly faced the threats
of serious illness, injury, death, or incarceration for their use and
for associated behaviors. Drug use and sales often brought violence into
the household or exacerbated existing patterns of violence (Anderson
1999). Crack-using males were often physically and sexually abusive of
their partners and their partners' children (Dunlap, Golub &
Johnson 2003). Crack users would escalate disputes, introducing
aggressive language and move on to physical violence while under the
influence (Dunlap, Johnson & Rath 1996). Other times fights erupted
when there was no money to buy drugs or other daily needs because the
household's marginal resources had already been expended on drugs.
The allure or dependence on drug use often led crack users to leave their families to live on the streets or, conversely, led families to expel crack users to protect themselves and their children (Maher et al. 1996; Williams 1992; Johnson et al. 1990). This led to an increase in mother-only households as young fathers left their partners or never established a household in the first place. Young mothers also left their families, fueling an increase in no-parent households in which the grandmother usually took charge of the children of her crack-addicted daughter (Dunlap, Tourigny & Johnson 2000; Minkler & Roe 1993).
New York City experienced a renaissance during the 1990s. The streets became cleaner, the homeless were less visible, the economy was booming, real estate values surged, tourism increased, the crack epidemic went into decline and violent crime diminished (Blumstein & Wallman 2006). Despite these broader social changes, many older crack users persisted in their habits beyond the peak years of the crack epidemic assuring that crack would remain a problem for many years to come, just as some older heroin users had continued with their habits (Golub & Johnson 1999). On the brighter side, most inner-city youths purposefully avoided crack, heroin and other hard drugs in the 1990s, having seen the devastation these drugs brought into the lives of older community members (Furst et al. 1999; Curtis 1998). The drug of choice among youths became marijuana, especially when smoked in a blunt--an inexpensive cigar in which the tobacco is replaced with marijuana (Golub & Johnson 2001).
It would appear that the blunts subculture is much less problematic than the crack and heroin subcultures that preceded it. The health effects of marijuana use are less profound than crack and the behaviors surrounding smoking blunts are less violent and antisocial (Golub et al. 2004). This article examines the extent that this subcultural shift has led to improvements in household relationships. It was expected that relationships in which a partner used hard drugs would involve high levels of conflict and be more likely to end. The violence literature indicates that relationship conflict is often associated with substance use and abuse, especially alcohol, crack, and powder cocaine but generally much less with marijuana (Boles & Miotto 2003). In contrast, we expected that relationships that involved marijuana would be more mutual. However, our optimism concerning the blunts subculture was tempered by a recent secondary data analysis of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) that found that marijuana use was associated with an increased level of conflict in relationships, and that the association was stronger among poor minorities, especially if abuse or dependence was involved (Stalans & Ritchie 2008). Accordingly, we expected that hard drug use would be much more problematic than marijuana use, but partnerships in which neither partner used illegal drugs would be the most harmonious.
From April 2004 to April 2006, the larger project recruited 105 focal subjects from high poverty neighborhoods in New York City: primarily Central Harlem, South Bronx, and the Brownsville and East New York sections of Brooklyn. Interviewers approached persons they knew from previous studies, used snowball techniques, and met others by participating in the life of the community. Focal subjects were chosen to represent multiple social networks as well as a range of experiences typical of the inner city. Subj ects were required to be very poor, even severely distressed. Kasarda (1992) used this term to refer to the compound effect of low income, low educational attainment, poor work history, and public assistance dependency that presents a substantial barrier to attainment of mainstream success. The interviewers subjectively assessed this criterion based on their extensive experience studying this population from previous projects. A preliminary but not sufficient requirement was residence in one of New York City's high-poverty neighborhoods where severely-distressed circumstances were commonplace.
Subjects were selected to meet various other study criteria as well. They had to self-identify as either Black or African American. Among the 95 who completed the follow-up interview, a few (4%) self-identified as both African American and Hispanic. They had to be involved in an opposite-sex live-in partnership at the time of the baseline interview. Additionally, either the subject or their partner had to have custody of a child. This was a requirement for the larger project, which focused on household violence but was not the focus of the analysis of partnership conflict presented in this study. Only one member of the partnership was asked to participate in this study.
Sample quotas were used to stratify the sample by age. Among those who completed the follow-up interview, 27 (28%) were age 18 to 20 at the time of the baseline, 48 (51%) were age 21 to 25, and 20 (21%) were age 35 to 50. The oversample of young people was intended to provide insights into early partnering and parenting experiences. All of the subjects age 18 to 25 were born since 1978. They would have reached young adulthood after the use of crack had peaked and blunts were established as the drug of choice for many. Accordingly, we refer to them as members of the Blunts Generation (also see Golub & Johnson 1999). The 35 to 50 year-old subjects were born before 1970. They would have reached young adulthood and lived through the period when crack use was widespread. We refer to them as the Crack Generation. Subjects were not required to have used any particular drug. However, a study requirement was that someone in the household (not necessarily either of the partners) had to be involved with regular use of an illegal drug. At the follow-up interview, all of the older subjects (age 35 to 50 at baseline) reported having used at least one hard drug in their lifetime, and 65% reported having used crack. Among the younger subjects (age 18 to 25 at baseline), only 23% had ever used a hard drug and 12% had used crack.
The project followed IRB-approved procedures for human subjects protection. Once selected, interviewers held an informed consent discussion with each candidate regarding the purpose of the study, expectations for participation, and potential risks and benefits of the project. Interviewers emphasized that participation was completely voluntary, that confidentiality would be maintained, that subjects could refuse to provide any sensitive information they were uncomfortable about, and that they were free to drop out of the study at any time. Candidates that agreed to participate then signed a statement of informed consent. The original 105 participants completed lengthy, in-depth baseline interviews and were interviewed at regular intervals over the next three years.
From September to December 2008, the project reinterviewed 95 (90%) of the original subjects about the status of their drug use and their relationships (hereafter referred to as the follow-up interview). Survey questions were designed to be understood by an inner-city population with limited education and were field tested on 12 subjects who were participating in other research projects. As part of this survey, subjects completed a new IRB-approved informed consent. All 95 of the subjects who could be located agreed to participate. Subjects were paid $30 for their participation. The ten subjects who could not be located were age 18 to 25 years old; six were female, and all except one had used marijuana in the past 30 days. None of them had used hard drugs. The follow-up sample included more females (58%) than males (42%). By the time of the follow-up, only 42 (44%) subjects were still living with their baseline partner, 22 (23%) had a new partner, and 31 (33%) were not living with a partner; 10% of the subjects were married. The subjects reported that 92% of their partners were African American, 6% were other, and one (1%) was White; 10% of the partners were Hispanic.
The analysis sought to reveal the effect of drugs (especially hard drugs, but also marijuana to a lesser extent) on relationship dynamics as they effect a chain of causation including the following: (i) drug use caused relationship problems; (ii) drug use led to relationship conflict; (iii) relationships involving drugs had more conflict; and (iv) relationships involving drugs were less likely to endure. Measures of each stage of this chain are described.
Drug use. Subjects were asked how recently they used each of various illegal drugs or had used various types of prescription drugs without a prescription, just for the experience or feeling it caused. The categories and wording of the drug use questions were adapted from questions in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health or NSDUH (SAMHSA 2007). Subjects were also asked to report their favorite drug. Subjects were categorized according to an approximate hierarchy of the most serious illegal drug used in the past 30 days ranging from nonuser to marijuana-only user (but not hard drugs) to hard-drug user (any use of crack, heroin or powder cocaine, regardless of any marijuana use). All hard-drug users were grouped together because there were relatively few of them and their drug use varied. Among the eight hard-drug users at follow-up, seven used crack, three also used heroin and one used only powder cocaine. However, these were not primarily crack users. Only four of the eight hard-drug users reported crack was their drug of choice. The past 30-day hierarchy and drug of choice responses were highly consistent: seven of the eight past 30-day hard-drug users reported either powder cocaine, crack or heroin as their favorite; 41 of the 42 past 30-day marijuana-only users reported marijuana was their favorite drug.
Partnerships were classified into four types of drug users: nonuser, in which neither member used illegal drugs; one-marijuana-user, in which one member used marijuana and the other did not use any illegal drugs; both-marijuana-user; and hard-drug-user in which at least one member used a hard drug. Four partnerships were excluded from analyses by drug-user type because the subject reported they did not know which illegal drugs the partner used, if any.
Drug use problems. Subjects were directly asked the following questions about perceived drug use problems as appropriate based on whether they or their partner used illegal drugs: Do you think you have a problem with illegal drug use? Do you think your partner has a problem with illegal drug use? And, does your partner think you have a problem with illegal drug use? A partnership was identified as having "any perception of a drug problem," if the subject responded affirmatively to one or more of the questions. Additional questions probed as to whether a subject had asked their partner to stop using drugs, whether their partner had asked them to stop using drugs, and what was the response in each case. Subjects were also asked if they or their partner had ever been in a residential, nonresidential, or 12-Step recovery program (e.g., AA, NA).
Reasons for conflicts. Fifty-one subjects were in a live-in relationship where there was conflict. They were asked to rate how much each of various reasons (listed in Table 2) contributed to their arguments and fights using a five-point scale: (1) not a concern; (2) bothers me a little, but is not a factor in our arguments or fights; (3) contributes a little to our arguments or fights, but is not a primary factor; (4) has been, but is not usually, a primary reason for our arguments or fights; and (5) is usually a primary reason for our arguments or fights.
Conflict tactics in current relationship. The 64 subjects who were in a live-in relationship at follow-up (with either their baseline or a different partner) were asked how many times they had a verbal argument or a physical fight (two questions) with their partners in the past year. The Revised Conflict Tactics Scale (CTS2) was then administered to measure the nature and level of aggression in their domestic relationship (Straus, Hamby & Warren 2003). The CTS2 includes 78 questions about conflict-related behaviors in the past year such as, "I shouted or yelled at my partner," and the parallel question, "My partner did this to me." Responses were summed into the CTS2's five standard subscales: negotiation, psychological aggression, physical assault, injury and sexual coercion. Each scale represents an approximate count of related negative behaviors except for negotiation, which represents positive conflict management techniques such as, "I showed my partner I cared even though we disagreed." CTS2 scores are often presented separately for males and females because the experience of violence in a relationship generally differs with gender (Straus, Hamby & Warren 2003). However, ANOVA tests revealed that the differences across gender for this study were not statistically significant for each of the ten scale scores. Therefore, it seemed reasonable to examine the results by partnership type for males and females combined, given that dividing the sample by both partnership type and gender would yield small subsamples.
Partnership status at follow-up. Subjects were identified as living at follow-up with either their baseline partner, a new partner, or no partner at all. The retrospective and select nature of this data represents a limitation to the analysis. The extent of conflicts in relationships is likely to be lower than that prevailing in the population because no data was collected for those subjects who were not in a relationship at the time of the follow-up interview. This group likely included some of the persons who had more conflicts with their prior partners.
Reasons for last breakup. Subjects were asked about the most recent breakup of a live-in relationship since their baseline interview (if any). Fifty-three participants reported having had one. They were asked to rate how important each of various reasons (listed in Table 5) was to the breakup using a five-point scale: (1) not a factor; (2) bothered me or my partner, but not a factor in the breakup; (3) contributed a little to the breakup; (4) was very important to the breakup, but not a primary factor; (5) was a primary reason for the breakup. The reasons included various behavioral factors such as "own drug use" and "partner's drug use" (summarized in Table 5 under "either's drug use").
Descriptive tables were prepared to display how relationship characteristics varied across drug-user types. The ANOVA statistic was used to test for statistically signficant differences across drug user types for numerical characteristics such as scale scores and the Pearson [x.sup.2] for binary characteristics. To illustrate the underlying dynamics of the findings, a few quotes from qualitative surveys were identified for inclusion in this study. The names used are pseudonyms chosen by the subjects themselves.
The analysis of reasons for a breakup was initially challenging. Subjects' reasons varied substantially. Therefore, the highest mean score associated with any particular reason was only 3.5. This finding was analytically unsatisfying since a score of 3 indicates a factor "contributed a little to the breakup." Consequently, the percentage of subjects reporting 5, "was a primary reason for the breakup," was analyzed. With respect to past-year conflict, however, the average was used to analyze the general importance of each reason for conflict. This approach seemed appropriate because the analysis was concerned with behaviors (conflicts) that occurred over an entire year. In contrast, breakups represented a single event.
This section examines the evidence that drugs were associated with each step in a chain of relationship problems starting from whether partners perceived drug use was a problem, whether they argued about drug use, whether relationships involving drug use were more conflictual and whether they were less likely to have endured.
Drugs as a Problem
Table 1 examines whether subjects and their partners perceived illegal drug use as a problem. Overall, hard drug use was always reported as a problem. Among the five hard drug-user partnerships, there were three in which the subject used hard drugs, and three in which the partner did. Two of the three subjects (66%) who used hard drugs reported that they had a drug problem. The one subject who personally did not think his drug use was a problem reported that his partner thought his drug use was a problem. All three subjects whose partners used hard drugs reported that the partner's drug use was a problem. Additionally, subjects reported they and their partners were raising the issue with each other. All three subjects who used hard drugs were asked to stop by their partner. One subsequently enrolled in drug treatment. All three subjects whose partners used hard drugs requested that the partner stop. Two of them made efforts to stop, but these efforts had failed so far. Two of the three subjects whose partners used hard drugs reported that they did not like their partner's drug use but felt they could do nothing about it. The other was actively trying to help the partner stop. However, it was not the case that the hard-drug users had never tried to do anything about it themselves. All of the hard-drug users reported that they had been to drug or alcohol treatment. Marty Luce described how much she disliked her partner's obsession with crack:
Marty Luce: [When he uses crack,] he has absolutely no patience at all. He-he's all out of control ... The little things just get, he's-he's irritable. [And it's gotten worse]. It's almost like [he's the same when he has] the crack [as] when he don't have it. So, he's irritable, he use, get-get the drug for him, give it to him, he's happy for a moment until he's-it's all gone. And you know, and he angry after that. It's-it's horrible!
Marijuana use was less frequently perceived as a problem than was hard drug use. About a quarter of both-marijuana-user partnerships (27%) reported that either they or their partner had a problem. Few subjects (27%, six of 22) in both-marijuana-user partnerships and even fewer partners (9%, two of 22) had ever been to drug or alcohol treatment. Indeed, most of them (73%, 16 of 22) reported that they enjoyed smoking marijuana with their partner. Unlike hard drugs, marijuana was most often associated with innocuous or even prosocial behaviors. Subjects often reported that when high on marijuana they and their partners were relaxed or sleepy, funny or silly, talkative, nicer, more caring, and wanted to have sex. Unlike with hard drugs, subjects did not report arguing while smoking marijuana. Chocolate reported that her partner's behavior was so positive and improved that she wished he would always be high:
Chocolate: [When he's high,] he's funny. He acts real cuckooish, crazy.... That's about the only time he is not on the video game. [Laughs] [And we argue] much less. That's why I think he should stay high. [Laughs] ... He gets a different state of mind. He gets in, you know, like everything is just cool and collected to him.
Marijuana was more frequently perceived as a problem in one-marijuana-user partnerships (55%). In most of these partnerships, the user was the subject (ten out of 11). Only one of the ten subjects (10%) who smoked marijuana and whose partner did not reported that they had a drug problem. However, a larger percentage (50%, five of ten) averred that their partner felt they had a problem. Some of these partners (40%, four of ten) had asked the subject to stop drug use. Almost all of these requests were ignored (75%, three of four). One marijuana smoker stopped but then restarted. Few marijuana users (18%, two of 11) in one-marijuana-user partnerships had ever been to drug or alcohol treatment.
Drugs as a Cause of Conlict
Table 2 examines the reasons for conflicts among the 51 subjects who were in a partnership at follow-up and who reported any conflict, on a five-point scale. Among hard-drug users, illegal drug use (4.6 out of 5.0) was a strong factor; it was less of a factor in one-marijuana-user partnerships (2.9) and even less in two-marijuana-user partnerships (2.1). In general, the average scores for each of the five factors was highest among hard-drug-user, next highest among marijuana-user, and lowest among non-user partnerships. Hard-drug-user partnerships were the most passionate about the reasons for conflicts. These findings are consistent with the possibility that among nonuser partnerships the few conflicts that arose were for varied reasons.
Hard-drug-user partnerships also had regular and perhaps ongoing conflicts over money. The score of 5.0 indicates that all members of hard-drug-user partnerships reported that money was "usually a primary reason for our arguments or fights." Money was less of a problem among marijuana-user (3.8-4.3) and nonuser (2.5) partnerships. Among hard-drug-user partnerships, sexual fidelity (4.2), the male not helping out enough (4.6), and the male's alcohol use (3.8) were also serious factors. Overall, money (3.6) and not helping out enough (3.1) were the most serious factors (last column of Table 2). The next most important factors were differences over raising the children (2.6), sexual fidelity (2.5), and then illegal drug use (2.4). Some factors were hardly mentioned at all, including criminal justice involvement (1.2), pregnancy (1.3), inability to get pregnant (1.0), having more children (1.4) and religious differences (1.0).
Drugs and Relationship Harmony
The amount of conflict in a relationship varied substantially with drugs used (Table 3). Overall, hard-drug-user partnerships had more conflict and worse conflict management than others. Marijuana-user partnerships had similar levels of conflict and conflict management regardless of whether one or both members used marijuana. Marijuana-user partnerships performed better than hard-drug user partnerships, but not as well as nonuser partnerships. Hard-drug-user partnerships had extensive conflict. The average of 25 verbal arguments in the past year indicates that all five of these subjects reported the highest response category on the CTS2, more than 20 times in the past year. Hence, the average number of arguments among hard-drug-user partnerships may have been much higher than 25. Physical fights were much less common, averaging five per year among hard-drug user partnerships. The number of arguments (14.6-14.7) and fights (1.1-1.7) were lower for marijuana-user than hard-drug-user partnerships. The number of arguments (3.2) and fights (0.0) were the lowest among nonuser partnerships.
Hard-drug-users partnerships also had generally worse conflict management than others. Members of hard-drug-user partnerships scored more than 25 points below members of all other partnership types (17.0 vs. 42.3-49.0) on negotiation (perpetrator). However, there were too few hard-drug-user partnerships to detect a difference of even this magnitude as statistically significant. The differences regarding perpetration of psychological aggression, physical assault and injury were statistically significant. Psychological aggression was the most common negative tactic employed by each partnership type. Members of hard-drug-user partnerships committed more than 10 times as many psychologically aggressive acts (59.2) as members of nonuser partnerships (4.4). Psychological aggression scores among marijuana-user partnerships (30.2-36.7) were in between the two. Members of hard-drug-user partnerships committed on average 14.8 physical assaults resulting in 7.2 injuries in the past year. In contrast, physical assault (0.2) and injury (0.0) were virtually unheard of among nonuser partnerships. Again, members of marijuana-user partnerships committed about half as many physical assaults (3.9-4.3) as members of hard-drug-user partnerships, and these assaults resulted in many fewer injuries (0.6-1.0). The scale scores for victims of conflict tactics were very similar to the corresponding perpetrator scores indicating that subjects perceived that they were the recipients about as often as they committed various acts. Straus and colleagues (2003) noted that victim scale scores are sometimes a few points higher than perpetrator scale scores, perhaps representing a self-serving bias (i.e., subjects tend to feel that their partner is worse than they are).
Interview data further substantiated how hard drug use can reduce relationship quality. Subjects reported that partners who used hard drugs were in a self-centered world of their own. B.K. described how his otherwise agreeable wife became intolerable when she used crack.
B.K.: [My wife is] like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde--total opposite. My wife can be a loving caring person when she's not drinking and using drugs. But when she start using, [she has] total disregard for family, total disregard for herself, for the kids. I mean it's like (lets out a sigh) it's like we don't exist.... She doesn't even wanna be around. She doesn't wanna be bothered. Maybe that's why she goes and goes for days at a time. She doesn't want anybody to say anything to her about it. [This time, she's been gone] for at least, four days, four days....
Other subjects similarly reported that hard drug users were irritable, impatient, self-centered, mistreated the children, and stole household possession to pay for their drugs. Use of marijuana was much less problematic. Nee-Nee and her partner used both marijuana and crack. She described how marijuana was fine but that crack made her unsociable:
Nee-Nee: Well, I don't mind too much the weed. The weed makes you happy and laugh and act stupid. But the coke sends me into some kinda shell. Like I don't want to talk. I don't want to see nobody. I don't. It's just a total shut-down for me.
These findings suggest that there is a strong behavioral factor, perhaps pharmacologically induced, that leads from crack use to relationship conflict but that is not associated with marijuana.
Drug and Relationship Durability
Many of the personal recollections suggested a perceived relationship between hard drug use and the dissolution of a former relationship. Little Sty describes how her former boyfriend was self-absorbed and single-minded when he was using crack and heroin just like earlier depictions of the heroin juggler in the 1960-70s or the crackhead on a mission in the 1980-90s (Williams 1992; Preble & Casey 1969).
Little Sty: My boyfriend was using crack and heroin.... [When he was using drugs, he was] stupid, don't wanna do nothing, laid back, you know, lazy. And, you know, ripping and running in the streets all the time.... Going, going, always gotta do something: "Oh, I gotta go do this!" [I would think], "Why you got so much to do? [You] ain't got a job!" I ain't never seen nobody got so much to do ain't got a job.... [I didn't know he used drugs] in the beginning, cause he was sneaking. Then when I started realizing, I kicked that ass to the curb! (laughs)
Little Sty wanted nothing to do with her partner's uncaring drug-related behavior and threw him out. This quote illustrates the dynamics behind our expectation that relationships involving hard drugs at baseline would be less likely to be intact at follow-up.
However, the quantitative relationship turned out to be slightly more complex. The association between drug use at baseline and partnership status at follow-up was not statistically significant (data not shown). On the other hand, the relationship between drug use at follow-up and partnership status was significant (Table 4). One possible explanation is that subjects who quit their drug use were better able to maintain their relationships. Table 4 indicates that more than half (58%) of the hard-drugs users at baseline had quit illegal drug use or used marijuana-only by the time of the follow-up. A substantial portion of marijuana-only users at baseline had also stopped using by the time of the follow-up (42%). This is consistent with a maturation effect whereby as a person ages and takes on the additional responsibilities associated with relationships, family and work, they often reduce or stop illegal drug use altogether (Bachman et al. 1997; Winick 1963).
Accordingly, we would expect that those persons who had less serious habits at baseline or had matured out of their habit by follow-up would be more likely to be in a relationship. Of course, it is not possible to identify the direction of causation from this retrospective analysis: a good relationship may have resulted in maturation from drug use, or the cessation of drug use may have saved the relationship. Hard-drug use at follow-up was strongly associated with a partnership status. Hard-drug users were the least likely to have remained with their baseline partner (25%) and the most likely to be living without a partner (62%). Marijuana-only users were twice as likely to have remained with their baseline partner (52%) and quite unlikely to be living without a partner (17%). Even nonusers were less likely than marijuana-only users to be with their baseline partner (40%) and more likely to be living without a partner (42%).
These findings suggest that marijuana use is much less detrimental to relationships in the inner city than hard drugs. Indeed, the finding is consistent with the possibility that shared marijuana consumption may further bond partners and serve as a protective factor against ending a relationship despite any increased conflict. This interpretation is further supported by the experiences of subjects who discontinued marijuana use from baseline to follow-up. Subjects who discontinued marijuana use (43 %) were more likely to be living without a partner than those who were still using marijuana (18%) at follow-up (data not shown in any table).
More than half (56%, 53 of 95) of the focal subjects had broken up with at least one partner between the time of their baseline and follow-up interviews. Table 5 presents the reasons subjects reported as to why their most recent live-in relationship ended. On average, subjects identified about four reasons as primary to their breakup. (Note: The sum of all the percentages in Table 5 excluding the "either" entries is 394% or about four.) Just over half (53%) the subjects reported that money was a primary reason for their breakup. On a highly-related question, slightly more (57%) reported that one partner was not contributing enough money. This partner was much more often the male (47%) than the female (13%). In fact, on nearly all of the questions regarding individual behavior, it was much more often the male's behavior than the female's that was a primary reason for any breakup (last column in Table 5).
Relatively few subjects reported that disagreements about sex (13%) was a primary reason for a breakup. However, sex-related concerns were often primary. Almost half (45%) reported that sexual infidelity was a primary reason. It was much more often the male's infidelity (40%) that presented a problem than the female's (13%). A male's lack of affection was a primary problem 21% of the time, a female's lack of affection only 6%. Finding someone else was a primary reason 25% of the time. It was about as often the male (13%) as the female (12%) who found someone else. More than 25% of subjects reported that illegal drug use, alcohol use, violent behavior, going to jail or prison and not helping out enough were each a primary reason (25%-38%). This was almost always the male's misbehavior (21%-34%) and rarely the females (2%-9%). Concerns regarding pregnancy, the children, or religious differences (0%-4%) were rarely the reason relationships ended.
A similar analysis to that presented in Table 5 was performed to determine if reasons for the breakup varied with type of drug use at baseline (results not shown). Of the 36 [x.sup.2]-tests, only three were statistically significant: either's illegal drug use, male's illegal drug use, and male not helping out enough. Among hard drug-user partnership, illegal drug use was nearly always a primary reason for the breakup (88%, or seven out of eight). Among one-marijuana-user partnerships, illegal drug use was cited as a primary reason for the breakup 31% of the time. The rate was even lower among two-marijuana-user partnerships (10%). The findings indicate that marijuana use is much less likely than hard drug use to cause a relationship to end, especially if both members partake.
Drug use takes place within a subcultural context with associated behaviors. The findings of this study are consistent with the idea that a major subcultural shift has changed the relationship between illegal drug use and inner-city African-American intimate relationships. In the 2010s, use of hard drugs like crack and heroin were still associated with relationship conflict and dissolution. Indeed, the subjects' experiences indicate that use of these drugs was generally associated with the same type of obsessive, self-centered behaviors as during the previous crack and heroin epidemics. On the other hand, use of crack and heroin was much less common in the inner city.
Since the early 1990s, the drug of choice in the inner city has been blunts. Indeed, several of the hard-drug users recruited in 2004-06 for this study had stopped using by 2008 and most of the younger adults had never used crack or heroin. The findings of this study indicate that blunts and marijuana use is generally associated with less conflict and more harmonious opposite-sex intimate relationships than use of crack or heroin. This is good news for the individuals, their partners, and the children growing up in these households. There is even some limited evidence that marijuana was helping some partnerships stay together. Crack and heroin had been associated with conflict, violence, spending time away from home, and other behaviors that strained relationships. In contrast, many of the subjects reported that they enjoyed using marijuana with their partner and that they displayed prosocial behaviors while using, especially being more relaxed, funnier and more interested in their partner. These behaviors were associated with lower conflict among marijuana-user partnerships and an increased likelihood of remaining together. Indeed, marijuana-user partnerships were slightly more likely to remain together than nonuser partnerships. However, these positive findings need to be tempered by the further observation that nonuser relationships in the inner city had even less conflict than marijuana-user relationships. This analysis did not uncover any reason for this association or any mechanism by which marijuana use caused greater conflict. However, the relationship is clearly there. Moreover, this finding reproduces Stalans and Ritchie's (2008) observation that marijuana-user relationships have greater relationship conflict than nonuser relationships. The nature of this association remains a topic for further research.
The findings of this study are necessarily limited by sample size and population studied. The relatively modest sample size made it hard to detect statistical significance and prohibited more extended multivariate analysis. Additionally, the study was restricted to a highly specific population at a particular time. The findings of this study pertain to African-American inner-city relationships in the 2000s. The findings do not necessarily pertain to other wealthier populations where different norms for use of marijuana and other drugs may prevail. Moreover, the findings do not guarantee that over time as subcultures evolve that marijuana use in the inner city may become associated with behaviors that are more problematic to relationships. However, at this time it appears that the blunts subculture prevailing in the 2000s has been much more supportive to harmonious intimate relationships and family life among inner-city African Americans than the crack and heroin subcultures that preceded it.
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(dagger) This research was funded by grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (R01 DA021827; R01 DA09056; R01 DA013690). The points of view in this article do not represent the official position of the U.S. Government, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, or National Development and Research Institutes, Inc. The authors would like to acknowledge the contributions to the project by Doris Randolph, Deborah Murray and Beverly Jones-Squall and the constructive comments to a previous version of this study by an anonymous reviewer. We especially acknowledge the extensive contribution to this project by our colleague Dr. Bruce D. Johnson. Bruce passed away unexpectedly in February, 2009. He was a major force in the field whose contributions spanned more than three decades. We have missed working with him. Thank you for everything Bruce.
Andrew Golub, Ph.D. *; Eloise Dunlap, Ph.D. ** & Ellen Benoit, Ph.D. *
* Principal Investigator, National Development and Research Institutes, Inc., New York, NY.
** Director of the Institute for Special Populations Research, National Development and Research Institutes, Inc., New York, NY.
Please address correspondence and reprint requests to Andrew Golub, National Development and Research Institutes, Inc., 47 Prospect Pkwy, Burlington, VT 05401; phone: 802-862-6717, fax: 802-862-4685, email: Andrew. Golub@BurlingtonTelecom.Net
TABLE 1 Perception of a Drug Problem within Partnership (N=38 Partnerships that were Still Together at Follow-up in Which at Least One Partner Used Illegal Drugs) Partnership Drug Use One-MJ-User Both-MJ-Users Subsample Size * 11 22 Do You Have a Drug Problem? ** 1 of 10 5 of 22 Does Partner Think You Have a 5 of 10 1 of 22 Drug Problem? Does Your Partner Have a Drug 1 of 1 4 of 22 Problem? Any Perception of a Drug 6 of 11 (55%) 6 of 22 (27%) Problem Subsample Size of Subjects 10 22 Who Use Drugs Has Partner Asked You to Stop 4 7 Using Drugs? Subject Ignored Request? 3 3 Subject Stopped, But Then 1 4 Restarted Use? Subject Enrolled in Drug 0 0 Treatment? Have You Ever Been to Drug or 2 6 Alcohol Treatment? Subsample Size of Partners 1 22 Who Use Drugs Have You Asked Your Partner 1 6 to Stop Using Drugs? Partner Ignored Request 1 4 Partner Stopped, But Then 0 2 Restarted Partner Enrolled in Drug 0 0 Treatment, But Then Left Has Your Partner Ever Been 0 2 to Drug or Alcohol Treatment? How Do You Feel About Your Partner's Drug Use Enjoy Using with Partner 0 16 Don't Like, But Not Overly 0 3 Concerned Don't Like, But Can't Do 1 3 Anything About It Am Trying to Help Partner 0 0 Stop Partnership Drug Use Hard-Drug User Subsample Size * 5 Do You Have a Drug Problem? ** 2 of 3 Does Partner Think You Have a 3 of 3 Drug Problem? Does Your Partner Have a Drug 3 of 3 Problem? Any Perception of a Drug 5 of 5 (100%) Problem Subsample Size of Subjects 3 Who Use Drugs Has Partner Asked You to Stop 3 Using Drugs? Subject Ignored Request? 2 Subject Stopped, But Then 0 Restarted Use? Subject Enrolled in Drug 1 Treatment? Have You Ever Been to Drug or 3 Alcohol Treatment? Subsample Size of Partners 3 Who Use Drugs Have You Asked Your Partner 3 to Stop Using Drugs? Partner Ignored Request 1 Partner Stopped, But Then 1 Restarted Partner Enrolled in Drug 1 Treatment, But Then Left Has Your Partner Ever Been 3 to Drug or Alcohol Treatment? How Do You Feel About Your Partner's Drug Use Enjoy Using with Partner 0 Don't Like, But Not Overly 0 Concerned Don't Like, But Can't Do 2 Anything About It Am Trying to Help Partner 1 Stop * Statistical tests not performed due to extremely small cell sizes. ** Subsample size varies across question when only one member of a partnership uses drugs. TABLE 2 Reasons for Conflicts by Type of Drug Use (N = 51 Subjects in Relationships who Reported having Arguments or Fights with their Partner) Mean Relevance by Partnership Drug Use One-MJ- Both-MJ- Reasons for Conflict Nonusers User Users Subsample Size (has Conflict) 14 10 22 Differences Over Money ** 2.5 4.3 3.8 Either Did Not Contribute Enough 2.0 3.1 3.3 Money ** Male Did Not Contribute Enough 1.6 2.8 3.0 Money * Female Did Not Contribute Enough 1.6 1.9 1.9 Money Disagreement About Sex 1.9 2.1 2.4 Either Was Sexually Unfaithful ** 1.4 2.0 3.0 Male Was Sexually Unfaithful * 1.4 1.6 2.6 Female Was Sexually Unfaithful * 1.0 1.7 1.5 Either Was Not Affectionate Enough 1.9 2.4 2.5 Male Was Not Affectionate Enough 1.6 2.4 2.3 Female Was Not Affectionate Enough 1.5 1.5 1.8 Either's Use of Illegal Drugs ** 1.6 2.9 2.1 Male's Use of Illegal Drugs ** 1.4 1.6 1.8 Female's Use of Illegal Drugs 1.3 2.3 1.9 Either's Use of Alcohol * 1.3 2.1 2.1 Male's Use of Alcohol ** 1.0 1.7 2.0 Female's Use of Alcohol 1.3 1.8 1.5 Either's Violent Behavior 1.3 1.8 2.3 Male's Violent Behavior 1.2 1.7 2.0 Female's Violent Behavior 1.1 1.8 1.7 Either's Criminal Justice 1.3 1.2 1.1 Involvement Male's Criminal Justice 1.3 1.2 1.1 Involvement Female's Criminal Justice 1.0 1.2 1.0 Involvement Either Did Not Help Out Enough * 2.1 2.6 3.5 Male Did Not Help Out Enough * 1.7 2.3 2.8 Female Did Not Help Out Enough 1.6 1.9 2.2 Got Pregnant 1.2 1.5 1.4 Inability to Get Pregnant 1.0 1.0 1.0 Disagreement About Having More 1.0 2.0 1.4 Children * Disagreement About How to Raise 2.0 2.8 3.0 Children Religious Differences 1.0 1.0 1.0 Mean Relevance by Partnership Drug Use Hard-Drug Reasons for Conflict User Total Subsample Size (has Conflict) 5 51 Differences Over Money ** 5.0 3.6 Either Did Not Contribute Enough 4.8 3.1 Money ** Male Did Not Contribute Enough 4.0 2.7 Money * Female Did Not Contribute Enough 3.2 1.9 Money Disagreement About Sex 3.4 2.3 Either Was Sexually Unfaithful ** 4.2 2.5 Male Was Sexually Unfaithful * 3.0 2.1 Female Was Sexually Unfaithful * 2.8 1.5 Either Was Not Affectionate Enough 3.2 2.4 Male Was Not Affectionate Enough 2.4 2.2 Female Was Not Affectionate Enough 2.0 1.7 Either's Use of Illegal Drugs ** 4.6 2.4 Male's Use of Illegal Drugs ** 3.8 1.8 Female's Use of Illegal Drugs 3.2 1.9 Either's Use of Alcohol * 3.8 2.1 Male's Use of Alcohol ** 3.8 1.8 Female's Use of Alcohol 1.0 1.4 Either's Violent Behavior 3.0 2.0 Male's Violent Behavior 2.2 1.7 Female's Violent Behavior 2.6 1.6 Either's Criminal Justice 1.0 1.2 Involvement Male's Criminal Justice 1.0 1.2 Involvement Female's Criminal Justice 1.0 1.0 Involvement Either Did Not Help Out Enough * 4.6 3.1 Male Did Not Help Out Enough * 4.6 2.6 Female Did Not Help Out Enough 2.2 2.0 Got Pregnant 1.0 1.3 Inability to Get Pregnant 1.0 1.0 Disagreement About Having More 1.0 1.4 Children * Disagreement About How to Raise 2.6 2.6 Children Religious Differences 1.0 1.0 * The ANOVA test of the difference is statistically significant at the a = .05 level. ** The ANOVA test of the difference is statistically significant at the a = .01 level. TABLE 3 Conflict and Conflict Tactics by Type of Drug Use (N = 60 Subjects Currently in Partnerships) Mean Score by Partnership Drug Use One-MJ- Both-MJ- Nonusers User Users Subsample Size (All Partnerships) 22 11 22 Number of Verbal Arguments in Past 3.2 14.6 14.7 Year ** Number of Physical Fights in Past 0.0 1.1 1.7 Year ** % With Any Conflict in Past 64% 91% 100% Year ** CTS2 Scores for Perpetrator Negotiation 45.1 42.3 49.0 Psychological Aggression 4.4 30.2 36.7 Physical Assault 0.2 4.3 3.9 Injury 0.0 1.0 0.6 Sexual Coercion 0.2 3.0 1.8 CTS2 Scores for Victim Negotiation 42.5 44.8 42.5 Psychological Aggression 1.8 25.8 30.0 Physical Assault 0.0 6.3 5.5 Injury * 0.0 3.5 0.8 Sexual Coercion 0.9 0.5 2.4 Hard-Drug User Total Subsample Size (All Partnerships) 5 60 Number of Verbal Arguments in Past 25.0 11.3 Year ** Number of Physical Fights in Past 5.0 1.2 Year ** % With Any Conflict in Past 100% 85% Year ** CTS2 Scores for Perpetrator Negotiation 17.0 43.7 Psychological Aggression 59.2 25.5 Physical Assault 14.8 3.5 Injury 7.2 1.0 Sexual Coercion 2.6 1.5 CTS2 Scores for Victim Negotiation 20.6 41.1 Psychological Aggression 55.0 21.0 Physical Assault 13.4 4.3 Injury * 3.6 1.2 Sexual Coercion 2.8 1.5 Note: The relevant subsample includes all 64 subjects who were in a relationship at follow-up. Four subjects were excluded because the subject reported not knowing if partner used illegal drugs. * The ANOVA test of the difference is statistically significant at the a = .05 level. ** The ANOVA test of the difference is statistically significant at the a = .01 level. TABLE 4 Variation in Partnership Status at Follow-up with Drug Use (N= 95) Drug Use at Follow-Up Hard None MJ-Only Drugs Overall Overall 47% 44% 8% Partnership status by Drug Use at Follow-up * No Partner 42% 17% 62% 33% New Partner 18% 31% 12% 23% Baseline Partner 40% 52% 25% 44% Drug Use at Follow-up by Drug Use at Baseline ** None 82% 18% 0% MJ-Only 42% 54% 4% Hard Drugs 50% 8% 42% * [chi square] test statistically significant at the [alpha] = .05 level. ** [chi square] test statistically significant at the [alpha] = .05 level. TABLE 5 Reasons Most Recent Live-in Relationship Ended (N = 53 Subjects who Ended a Relationship since the Baseline Interview) Reason for Breakup Percent Primary Differences Over Money 53% Either Did Not Contribute Enough Money 57% Male Did Not Contribute Enough Money 47% Female Did Not Contribute Enough Money 13% Disagreement About Sex 13% Either Was Sexually Unfaithful 45% Male Was Sexually Unfaithful 40% Female Was Sexually Unfaithful 13% Either Was Not Affectionate Enough 23% Male Was Not Affectionate Enough 21% Female Was Not Affectionate Enough 6% Either Found Someone Else 25% Male Found Someone Else 13% Female Found Someone Else 12% Either's Illegal Drug Use 38% Male's Illegal Drug Use 34% Female's Illegal Drug Use 4% Either's Alcohol Use 28% Male's Alcohol Use 21% Female's Alcohol Use 9% Either's Violent Behavior 26% Male's Violent Behavior 23% Female's Violent Behavior 8% Either Went to Jail or Prison 25% Male Went to Jail or Prison 22% Female Went to Jail or Prison 2% Either Did Not Help Out Enough 30% Male Did Not Help Out Enough 28% Female Did Not Help Out Enough 2% Got Pregnant 4% Could Not Get Pregnant 0% Disagreed About Having More Children 2% Disagreed About How to Raise Children 4% Either Mistreated Children 0% Either Molested Children 0% Religious Differences 0%
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