Use of Focus Groups In Developing an Adolescent Tobacco Use Cessation Program: Collective Norm Effects

Document Type



Community and Global Health (CGU)

Publication Date



Community Health | Medicine and Health Sciences | Mental and Social Health | Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social Psychology | Substance Abuse and Addiction


Recently, applied social researchers have shown an increased interest using focus groups as a method of generating ideas and solutions pertaining to various social problems. However, caution in the use of this methodology is warranted be- cause focus groups may induce certain group effects which might bias responses. The present study investigated whether an extended focus group procedure resulted in a polarization of attitudes (a group influence bias effect) or a greater pool of ideas than those generated by its members at pretest (brainstorming, a favorable group effect). Southern California and Illinois high school students involved in a total of 31 focus groups were administered pretest and posttest questionnaires. Thee groups addressed the perceived utility of self-generated strategies designed to recruit adolescent tobacco users into a high school based tobacco use cessation clinic Support was obtained for a group polarization effect, which was replicated aaxs grades, regions, tobacco use status, and specific strategy type. Spedfically, after partiapating in a focus group, the students rated all self-generated cessation clinic recruitment strategies as being more likely to be successful. Moreover, they reported that it was more likely that these strategies would lead them to join a pmgram themselves, if they were tobaca, users. However, little support was obtained for the brainstorming effect. In the present context, focus groups do not appear to eliat reporting of new types of strategies but do instill more favorable attitudes regarding self-generated solutions to a problem. Practical implications of these data are discussed.

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© 1991 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.