Testing the Question-Behavior Effect of Self-Administered Surveys Measuring Youth Drug Use

John S. Briney, Eric C. Brown, Margaret R. Kuklinski, Sabrina Oesterle, J. David Hawkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Purpose Concern that asking about a specific behavior could elicit that behavior is often cited as a reason that communities and schools should not administer surveys about youth drug use. In this study, we investigated if this question-behavior effect exists related to substance use. We examined if simply asking a student about their current drug use leads to an increase in drug use 1 year later. Method This study tests the validity of the question-behavior effect on youth drug use in a longitudinal panel of 2,002 elementary school students. The sample of students was drawn from the Community Youth Development Study, a community-randomized test of the Communities That Care prevention system. If the prevalence of self-reported drug use in sixth grade in a sample surveyed in fifth and sixth grades was higher than in an accretion sample surveyed only in sixth grade, the difference could indicate a question-behavior effect. Results Results from logistic regression analyses did not provide any evidence of a question-behavior effect on 30-day or lifetime prevalence of alcohol, tobacco, inhalant, or marijuana use reported in sixth grade. Conclusions Asking youth about drug use in a survey did not increase the rates of self-reported drug use measured 1 year later. The absence of evidence of a question-behavior effect should ease concerns of communities and schools when administering surveys asking youth about their drug use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)743-746
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Question-behavior effect
  • Youth drug use
  • Youth surveys

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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