Abstract: How Inequality Gets Under the Skin: Using Gema to Understand the Role of Stress in the Relationship between Black Youth Perceptions of Spaces and Marijuana Use (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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How Inequality Gets Under the Skin: Using Gema to Understand the Role of Stress in the Relationship between Black Youth Perceptions of Spaces and Marijuana Use

Friday, January 13, 2023
Cave Creek, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Jaime Booth, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
Ny'Ela Chapman, Youth Researcher, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
Background and purpose: Black adolescents use substances less than other groups but report more regular Marijuana use; disparities may be due to their disproportionate exposure to stressors. Black youth experience both interpersonal stressors, such as discrimination and structural stressors, such as systematic divestment in racially segregated neighborhoods. The Phenomenological Variant of Ecological Systems Theory (PVEST) argues that Black youth's behavior responds to their perception of support and stressors in their social environment. Most research investigating the connection between Black youth environment and their wellbeing has aggregated features of adolescent's home census tract, ignoring the entirety of their lived experience. To address this gap, the SPIN project engaged Black youth in a study that used geographic ecological momentary assessment (GEMA) to assess their perceptions of spaces, stress, and marijuana use in the moment. In this paper, we test 1) the direct relationship between Black youth's perceptions of social support, racism, and violence in space and marijuana use and 2) if youths' negative momentary emotions mediate these relationships.

Method: In July 2019, the SPIN Project's Youth Research Advisory Board recruited 75 Black adolescents (mean age 15.49) living in a single neighborhood to complete brief surveys on cell phones triggered geo fences four times a day for a month. In total, the youth completed 2,070 surveys during the day, assessing momentary negative emotion (α =.90) and perceptions of racism (α =.55), violence (α =.89), and social support (α =.95) in the space and 1,480 surveys at the end of the day, assessing marijuana use. Violence, racism, social support, and negative emotions were averaged across a day, and group mean-centered. Negative binomial models were estimated in a multi-level framework to predict marijuana use each day. Barron and Kenny's four-step process and Sobel tests were used to test for mediation.

Results: Participants reported smoking marijuana on 10% of all days in which they reported, with 25% of the sample reporting smoking marijuana during the GEMA period. A marginally significant direct relationship was found between participants daily perceptions of violence (B(SE) = .17(.09), p = .06) and social support (B(SE) =-.18(.11), p = .09) in spaces and daily marijuana use, however a significant indirect effect was found through daily negative emotion (Sobel test violence = 2.62 (.01), p<.01; Sobel test social support= -2.50 (.01), p<.05), indicating full mediation. A significant direct effect was found between daily perceptions of racism and daily marijuana use (B(SE) = .44 (.13), p<.001) and a significant indirect effect through daily negative emotion (Sobel test = 2.50 (.01), p<.05) indicating partial mediation.

Conclusions and Implications: Black youth's daily experiences of spaces are related to their daily negative emotions and marijuana use. GEMA gives social workers a tool to assess how adolescents' perceptions of their environment impact their development. The results of this study support the assertion that Black youth use marijuana to cope with stress in their environment. They further suggest that macro-level solutions that develop supportive spaces are needed to prevent Black adolescents’ frequent marijuana and support positive development.