This has some obvious practical implications. If it takes 10 hours, then only a small percent of the adolescent population would be at risk of substance use and delinquency resulting from unstructured socializing, as less than 20% of adolescents report spending more than 10 hours per week engaged in unstructured socializing. If, on the other hand, risk starts at only a couple hours per week engaging in unstructured socializing, then a much larger percent of the adolescent population could be at risk, as 75% of teens report spending at least one or two hours per week engaging in unstructured socializing.
I recently began analyzing data on about 8,000 Florida middle school and high school students concerning time spent in unstructured socializing and substance use. What I found is that for some substances, particularly marijuana use, spending a mere 1-2 hours per week with friends with no adults present doubles the risk of using pot compared to teens who report spending 0 hours per week in unstructured socializing. For other substances (tobacco and alcohol), it takes only 3-5 hours per week to pose a risk. For all substances examined, risk increases incrementally after the minimum hourly threshold is met. For example, a teen who spends 20 or more hours per week with friends with no adults around is 5x (500%) more likely to report recent marijuana use relative to a teen who spends 0 hours with friends unsupervised.
It is worth noting that these associations were found even after accounting for age, race, sex, self-control, parental monitoring, neighborhood disorder, peer substance use, truancy, peer attitudes, parental attitudes, and personal attitudes about substance use. While preliminary, these results reinforce the immediate and opportunistic nature of substance use when in a setting with friends where there are no authority figures to monitor behavior. I will be presenting these results at the ASC Conference in November.