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Real

Talk
Ward 7
Qualitative & Quantitative Research
Addressing Youth Substance Involvement
In the District of Columbias Ward 7
Sponsored by:
The Ward 7 Safe and Drug Free
Communities Coalition (W7SDCC)
Facilitated by:
Bruce Purnell, Ph.D.
December 2013

Executive Summary
The Ward 7 Safe and Drug Free Communities Coalition (W7SDCC), formed in March 2011,
works to connect government and the Wards 29 neighborhoods to collaborate on the reduction
and prevention of youth substance abuse, by developing and implementing environmental
strategies and tactics to effect community change. The environmental strategies approach
recognizes that risks associated with substance use are, in part, a function of the relationship
between the environments frequented by an individual and the substances, both legal and
illegal, that an individual uses.
The Coalitions leadership posits that a measurably effective program of environmental change
and substantive, social reconstruction leading to a drug-free youth culture would be successful
by creating an environment:

That looks healthy and has a positive, drug-free mood

That has consistent opportunities for positive community involvement

That reinforces positive behaviors and positive skill development through education

That influences and reinforces positive bonds

The Coalition also recognizes that such ambitious undertakings must have a sound footing of
information and research that reaches beyond anecdotal information that many might consider
reliable, but that is unsubstantiated. Therefore, the Coalition determined to begin by conducting
a comprehensive, mixed-model study, including surveys and focus groups, designed to examine
the ever-changing, dynamic interaction between youth, parents, families, neighborhoods,
psychosocial strengths and weaknesses and the influencing factors that either promote or deter
youth substance use.
The W7SDCC launched Ward 7-centric research studies of attitudes and behaviors related to
substance use and abuse among Ward 7 youth and adults that are, we believe, the first such studies,
ever conducted in the Ward. These studies included (1) the nationally recognized PRIDE, Inc.
Risk and Protective Factor Survey and (2) a series of Real Talk focus group sessions with
Ward 7 youth and adults. Enlightening information harvested from both will lead the Coalitions
strategic and tactical forward motion.
The Coalition selected Cesar Chavez Public Charter School in Parkside as a base site to gather
quantitative data, through a survey administered to a cross- section of Ward 7 youth in grades
6 to 12, related to substance use and related behaviors. The school was selected, because the
majority of its students reside in the Kenilworth, Parkside and Mayfair communities, chosen
to be the first site of impact for W7SDCC. Similarly, youth from seven Ward 7 public housing

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developments, including Parkside and surrounding neighborhoods, were recruited to provide


qualitative data though focus group discussions. The mixed-method approach drove our process,
meaning that a survey instrument and a series of focus groups both were to be used to attain the
broadest view of substance use and related behaviors possible. Whereas the survey was expected
to uncover the Who? What? When? Where? aspects of this study, the focus groups were
intended to yield the Why? and the How? Together, we believed, both studies would provide
a very comprehensive, real-time snapshot of how the most vulnerable communities in Ward 7
think, feel and act in regard to substance use and related behaviors.

The PRIDE survey was selected as the tool to provide quantitative information involving
risk and protective factors connected to substance use for the Kenilworth/Parkside area of
Ward 7. One of the reasons that W7SDCC selected the PRIDE survey for this examination
was that it provided a national norm as a reference point. This norm was the score of 50 and
whether a score was higher or lower indicated how far scores deviated from the national mean.
This would allow a comparison of the Cesar Chavez students in Ward 7 to the nations youth.

The data was organized by PRIDE, Inc. according to Risk and Protective factors with
higher protective scores and lower risk scores being optimal and based on an average of 50.
The PRIDE surveys domains included information concerning the individual and peers,
parents, the school and the community. The survey allowed the Coalition to look at each of
these elements, gain key insights into drug use and related behaviors of survey participants
and compare the Ward 7 youth risk and protective factor scores with the national average.

W7SDCCs Real Talk focus groups were conducted to gain a qualitative interpretation
of how youth and parents in Ward 7 think, feel and act regarding substance use and related
behaviors. These focus groups also allowed us to address the questions why and how
that surveys could not answer. The focus groups also provided the opportunity to begin
exploring whether charter schools, or Cesar Chavez Public Charter School in particular,
were skewed distributions that may have had different characteristics than the community
where they were located. This would show up if the survey data yielded different results than
the focus groups. We would also be able to see a social desirability bias in the survey data, by
understanding community norms from the focus groups.

The Real Talk focus groups sought to enhance the PRIDE survey findings with a photo
album, of input harvested across multiple sessions to explain and, perhaps, predict substance
use and related behaviors in Ward 7s most vulnerable communities. The entire process was
intended to be in the context of the community; to extract its voices, rather than an edited
version of a mainstream interpretation.
This mixed-method approach allows us to compare the protective and risk domain areas to national
norms and also compare the protective and risk domain results to a group of community discussions.
Details and Findings: The PRIDE Survey

The PRIDE, Inc. Risk and Protective Factor youth survey for grades 6-12 was designed to
identify the levels of risk and protective factors that predict problem behaviors, such as alcohol,
tobacco and other drug use, poor school achievement and delinquency. The survey measured a
variety of demographic characteristics. A higher percentage of the students surveyed were female
(48.5% female vs. 46.4% male). A majority of students identified themselves as African American
(84.2%), followed by Mixed Origin (6.1%), Latino (5.6%), Other (1.6%), Native American (0.5%)
and Asian (0.5%); none self-identified as White (0.0%).
In addition to measuring risk and protective factors, the PRIDE survey also measures the
actual prevalence of drug use, violence and other antisocial behaviors among surveyed students.
Administered to 186 Ward 7 middle and high school students, the survey results identified
specific risk and protective factors that the youth reported to be of most concern in their Ward
7 neighborhoods. This information will be used by the Coalition and should be of value to the
City as a whole to guide prevention efforts, to help address existing problems and to promote
healthy and positive youth development.

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Risk and Protective Factors

Just as eating a high-fat diet is a risk factor for heart disease and getting regular exercise is a
protective, health factor, there are behavioral characteristics for the community, school, family,
peer groups and individual youth that can help protect youth from, or put them at risk for, drug
use and other problematic actions.
Protective factors, also known as assets, are conditions that buffer children and youth from
exposure to risk, by either reducing the impact of the risk or changing the way that young
people respond to it.
Risk factors are conditions that increase the likelihood of a young person becoming involved
in drug use, delinquency, violence and/or dropping out of school. For example, children in
families with poor parental monitoring are more likely to become involved in these problem
behaviors. There is a substantial amount of research showing that adolescents exposure to a
greater number of risk factors is associated with more drug use and delinquency. There is
also evidence that exposure to a number of protective factors is associated with lower prevalence
of these problem behaviors. The analysis of risk and protective factors is a powerful tool for
understanding both positive and negative adolescent behavior and for helping design successful
prevention/intervention programs for young people.
Risk and Protective Factor Profiles

PRIDEs survey measures each of the risk and protective factor scores on a scale of 0 to 100; a
score of 50 is the normative average for this scale. A low score indicates the relative absence of
the risk or protective factor and a high score indicates an elevated level of that risk or protective
factor. Since risk factors are associated with an increased likelihood of alcohol and drug use
and other problem behaviors, lower scores on risk factors are desirable. Conversely, because
protective factors are associated with a decreased likelihood of problem behaviors, a higher score
on the protective factors is desirable.
For the overall sample, scale scores across five protective factors measured ranged from a low of
36 to a high of 66, with an average score of 52 (two points higher than the normative average of
50). The lowest protective factor score was interaction with prosocial peers (with a score of 36).
The highest protective factor score was school opportunities for prosocial involvement (score, 66).
The three highest risk factor scales measured were community disorganization (83), interaction
with antisocial peers (74) and low neighborhood attachment (59). The three lowest risk factor
scales were parental attitudes favorable toward drug use (16), favorable attitudes toward drug use
(24) and parental attitudes favorable toward antisocial behavior (25). It is known that prevention
programs and policies focused on reducing a broad spectrum of risk factors and increasing overall
levels of protective factors can be beneficial to students, families and the community at large.
Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Use: According to the PRIDE survey results, student
respondents recorded the highest, prevalence of use rates in the past year for alcohol (33.2%),
followed by marijuana (25.0%), tobacco (7.4%), synthetic marijuana (6.2%) and prescription
drugs (5.2%). The prevalence of use rates in the past 30 days was highest for alcohol (17.7%),
followed by marijuana (16.1%), prescription drugs (3.1%) and cigarettes (3.1).
Other Antisocial Behaviors: For the overall sample, the annual prevalence rates recorded for the
eight other problem, or antisocial, behaviors cover a broad range: 37.7% replied in the affirmative
to been suspended from school in the past year, making it the most prevalent of the eight
behaviors; attacked someone with the idea of seriously hurting them was the second most
prevalent at 22.4% and been drunk or high at school was third at 17.1%. Stolen or tried to
steal a motor vehicle was the least prevalent at 4.7%.

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Overall PRIDE, Inc. Survey Results

Overall scores across the five protective factor scale scores range from a low of 36 to a high
of 66, with an average score of 52, two points higher than the normative average of 50. The
lowest protective factor score was interaction with prosocial peers (36). While policies that
target any protective factor potentially could be important resources for students, focusing
prevention planning in this area could be especially beneficial. The highest protective factor
score was school opportunities for prosocial involvement (66). The higher scores reported
by students in this area represent a source of strength to be built upon whereas, the lower
scores are areas of concern to be addressed.
Overall scores across the 18 risk factor scales range from a low of 16 to a high of 83, with
an average score of 44, six points lower than the normative average of 50. The three highest
risk factor scales were community disorganization (83), interaction with antisocial peers (74)
and low neighborhood attachment (59). The three lowest risk factor scales were parental
attitudes favorable toward drug use (16), favorable attitudes toward drug use (24), and
parental attitudes favorable toward antisocial behavior (25). The lower scores reported by
students in these areas represent strengths that can be built upon and conversely the higher
scores represent areas to be addressed.
(Note that, while viewing these PRIDE survey findings as a valuable baseline of data and an
affirmation of much of the anecdotal information we have about youth attitudes and behaviors
regarding substance use and abuse in Ward 7, the Coalition understands that, across an entire
ward, there likely will be a saw tooth of life experiences, perspectives, facts and responses to
be gathered. Therefore, as we continue to pursue data across other Ward 7 neighborhoods that
may be more or less socio-economically stable and affluent, we expect to find varying levels of
substance interaction that will further enhance our view of what is happening, where and why,
to, by and for youth across the Ward.)
Details and Findings: The Real Talk Focus Groups

A total of 142 individuals participated in a total of 12, Real Talk sessions (including 2 preliminary
groups). There were 14 parents (five male and nine female) and 128 youth (68 males and 60 females)
whose ages ranged from 13 to 20. All were Ward 7 residents.
Both youth and adult participants were recruited from seven, targeted, DC public housing
neighborhoods in the Ward to participate in the focus groups. Public housing residents were
selected, because they are considered to be among the most vulnerable, at-risk and hard-to-reach
populations in the City. While the focus groups were not structured to be necessarily representative
of the entire population, principles of maximum variation sampling within the community were
used. Youth participants were selected from grade levels six through twelve. The size of the
groups ranged from six to 13, with an average group size of eight and as even a mix of males and
females, as was possible.
Information derived from the two preliminary group sessions allowed the research team to create
verbatim statements from community members with which focus group participants could then
agree or disagree. Questions were open-ended, and a list of probes was included to ensure that
significant topics were addressed, if they did not naturally result from participants conversations.
Participants were invited to discuss (a) their overall impressions of the drug situation in Ward 7;
(b) how Ward 7 is similar to or different from other wards, cities, states etc.; (c) how youth have
been impacted by drugs in the community (alcohol and marijuana specifically); (d) whether drug
use is accepted as normal behavior in the community; (e) if drug use, especially alcohol and
marijuana, has become cool and popular in Ward 7, and (f) what would have to happen for Ward 7
to become a drug-free ward. Participants were encouraged to respond freely, with moderators
seeking clarification or further information and making sure that all topic areas were covered in
the time allowed.

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Outside of this general understanding of substance involvement, we wanted these focus groups
to reveal:
At what age participating youth were when they were exposed to substances in Ward 7
Whether use of specific substances was viewed as normal behavior by Ward 7 residents
If specific substances were considered to be cool and popular by the participants
The perceptions of participants regarding the risk of harm from using specific substances
The general perception of adults regarding specific substance use by adults and/or youth
Marijuana, alcohol, cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, synthetic marijuana, Molly, Ecstasy, PCP,
cocaine, heroin and prescription drugs all were highlighted by participants as substances
to which youth are commonly exposed to in Ward 7; many are referred to as normal and
acceptable for use, as is their presence and easy availability in the community, although many
youth eschewed use of certain drugs (notably PCP, heroin and cocaine).
A comment from one participant, a 17 year-old girl from Benning Terrace, framed the entire
process and the challenges faced, when she asked:
If drugs were so bad, then why are they so available? Truthfully, we dont even care what
adults say about drugs anymore. They are the biggest hypocrites ever. They act like we
dont see that everybody is doing drugs Theyre everywhere, billboards, TV, radio,
we sing songs about drugs Come on Keep it real. Aint nobody worried about the
consequences or tomorrow for-real-for-real. I mean, were not trying to go to jail or
nothing, but if you locked up all the youth that did drugs, there wouldnt be anybody left.
With regard to rampant alcohol use/abuse in Ward 7 and the factors that promote it (a particular
focus of the Coalition in the early stages of our work), we learned that, among youth participants,
alcohol availability and use is so common and so widely available in the community (from retail
outlets, private homes, on the streets etc.) that participants could not imagine youth not having
access, if they wanted to consume it, starting at about age 7. The youth also talked about adults
in the community who have moonshine (homemade alcohol) from down south and let them
(youth) try it. According to the youth, adults make statements like, This will put hair on your
chest, offering it as a rite of passage to manhood for the boys. The girls stated that they have to
be aware of whom they allow to give them drinks, because there are predatory men who try to
trick girls that way, either to get them drunk and take advantage of them or by putting another
drug in their drink. They also shared that girls seem to prefer more of the fruity alcoholic
beverages like coolers and mixed drinks.
Participants also suggested that the legal drinking age is looked at as the age that one is able to
drink in restaurants and clubs, but that nobody really pays attention to the legal drinking age in
the community. They went further to state that some stores will sell alcohol to minors, particularly
if the youth are known to the retailers or if the retailers have a relationship with the kids parents
or grandparents. The youth Real Talk participants were united in the belief that they could
always find an adult who would buy alcohol for them, if they are not able to buy it themselves.
When asked why alcohol is so popular, youth stated that it made them feel better about themselves
and more social with others. They also shared that it relaxed them. They did share that alcohol
influences them to do things that they would not otherwise do, if not under the influence. Some
of those, if not behaviors included unprotected sex, using other drugs, skipping school and
other antisocial or criminal behaviors.

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Real Talk participating adults reported that alcohol has been a part of their lives, since they
could remember. They shared that they did/do not stress not using alcohol to their children, but
did/do not promote it either. The adults stated that, because alcohol is legal, it is not really looked
at as an illegal substance for minors. They talked about picnics where there would be coolers full
of alcohol and beer and where youth had full access without hindrance or judgment by adults.
The adults also shared that, by 13 years of age, almost all minors will have had a drink (a fact
borne out by other research among African-American youth). They went further to share that it
is only perceived as a problem, when people become alcoholics.
Drugs of Choice, Ranked By Participants

The youth and adult groups were asked to rank the order of drugs of choice in Ward 7, and
responded as follows:
Youth Adults
1. Marijuana

1. Alcohol

2. Alcohol

2. Cigarettes

3. Cigarettes

3. Marijuana

4. Ecstasy/e-pills

4. Cocaine

5. Dippers/PCP

5. PCP

6. Molly

6. Heroin

7. K2

7.

8. Cocaine

8. Ecstasy/e-pills

Prescription Drugs

9. Heroin
10. Prescription medications
Overall, drug use in the Ward was reported to be quite high among Real Talk participants
and their peer groups. Youth suggested that out of every 10 youth that they know, an average
of between four and five, will have used drugs in the last 30 days. Their estimates varied by age
group: ages 13-15 (30%); ages 15-17 (70%); ages 18-20 (80%).
It should be noted that alcohol and marijuana use appears to skew the percentages, because when
asked about alcohol, the responses were:
will have tried in lifetime: ages 13-15 (80%); ages 15-17 (90%); ages 18-20 (90%)
will have tried in the last 30 days: ages 13-15 (50%); ages 15-17 (70%); ages 18-20 (80%)
The responses to marijuana were:
will have tried in lifetime: ages 13-15 (70%); ages 15-17 (90%); ages 18-20 (90%)
will have tried in the last 30 days: ages 13-15 (50%); ages 15-17 (80%); ages 18-20 (80%)

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The Impact of Advertising

The participants suggested that ads on billboards or stores play a major part in making legal
substances seem acceptable and normal in the communities. They shared that other, more affluent
communities may be exposed to ads promoting business opportunities and health-related concerns,
while their exposure is to ads promoting alcohol and cigarettes. The youth shared that they also
pay close attention to celebrities on TV and in magazines who promote alcohol, cigarettes and
other drugs. Examples of celebrities that have had a huge influence on youth substance use include
P-Diddy, Rick Ross, Little Wayne, Wiz Khalifa, Snoop Dog, Nicki Minaj, Little Kim and a host
of local groups. The participants shared that substances that are promoted include alcohol, especially
designer brands, such as Ciroc vodka and Grey Goose , and marijuana, e-pills, Molly and cocaine
(both use and sales). They suggested that drugs are even promoted on animated cartoons like
Family Guy and The Simpsons.
The participants reported that synthetic marijuana is promoted more through word of mouth,
the Internet and cartoonish promotions to younger children.
The adults stated that smoking crack and shooting heroin are viewed negatively among youth and
adults in the community; however, snorting substances does not surface as carrying the same stigma.
The adults shared that billboards and store ads would make one want a smoke or a drink, especially
if one already has the desire to do so. They suggested that print media alcohol and cigarette
advertisements are a negative influence on the youth who already are impressionable. They went
further to suggest that TV, radio and internet advertisements are extremely influential. The adults
also stated that they felt that having so many ads promoting alcohol and drugs for example,
the store windows of liquor and grocery stores, as well as the promotion of marijuana, ecstasy
and other drug usage and sale by celebrities were disrespectful to their community. They went
further to share that they (interpreted to mean The Establishment) would not disrespect
Georgetown and Ward 3 in this way.
Executive Summary Conclusion

Overall, the Real Talk focus groups proved to be an invaluable device for exploring the
anatomy of legal and illegal substance involvement in the Ward 7 community. The clear and
frightening picture they revealed is of youth and adult lives where substance use and abuse
is common, commonly acknowledged and accepted and where there currently appears to be
little impetus to change the status quo, despite acknowledgment that these behaviors can be
dangerous to the individual and hurtful to the communitys overall quality of life.
The discussions revealed that, for a group to influence positive change in Ward 7, there needs
to be a strategic focus on educating youth, parents and the greater community about the history
of a vibrant and resilient Ward 7, before the drug culture became normative; about the many
health and lasting effects of gateway drugs, such as alcohol, tobacco and marijuana use; that use
of gateway drugs frequently leads to use of more serious drugs and about overall, quality of life
implications surrounding substance use and abuse. This information then begins to inform a
blueprint for substantive, environmental change and social reconstruction toward a healthy, safe
and drug-free Ward 7.
Please refer to the full report that follows for detailed research conclusions and forward-motion
considerations to be developed by the Coalition to combat youth substance use and abuse in
Washington, DCs Ward 7.

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4645 Nannie Helen Burroughs Ave, NE


Washington, DC 20019