1989 A Generation at Risk


In 1989 the Governor’s Drug Policy Council, with funding assistance from the federal Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act of 1986, commissioned a statewide survey of public and nonpublic school students in grades 6, 7, 9, and 12 to assess attitudes and behaviors involving alcohol and other drugs. The survey was self-administered by the students; their individual responses were anonymous and confidential to encourage accurate and honest responses. Grades 6 and 7 were chosen because students in those grades represent the transition from elementary to middle or junior high school. Grade 9 was chosen to show students in the transitional period from junior to senior high while grade 12 was chosen to monitor students at the end of high school (Governor’s Drug Policy Council, 1989, p. 1). Schools that were selected in the random selection process could participate free of charge.

The survey was part of the PENNFREE initiative, the former Governor Robert P. Casey’s plan for a drug-free Pennsylvania. The survey was an important component of the plan for a drug-free Pennsylvania as it provided "an unprecedented portrait of our youth--what they do and what they don’t do with alcohol and drugs, and why" (Governor’s Drug Policy Council, 1989, n.p.). The information from the survey allowed state policy makers, educators, and drug prevention specialists to determine the kinds of programs needed to keep children from becoming addicted to alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. Its corresponding report was labeled as "the product of the only comprehensive and statistically valid alcohol and drug abuse survey ever accomplished in Pennsylvania" (Governor’s Drug Policy Council, n.p.). The state survey filled an information void that the federal government could not. At that time the federal government conducted youth surveys that monitored only high school seniors and the data was at least one year old before it was released (Governor’s Drug Policy Council, p. i).

The early surveys used an instrument called the Primary Prevention Awareness, Attitude and Usage Scale (PPAAUS) that was designed and copyrighted by Dr. John D. Swisher, Ph.D.  From 1989 through 1997, the survey was known as the PPAAUS, named after the survey instrument that was used, but was more frequently referred to by the name on the corresponding hardcopy reports, A Generation at Risk.  In 2001, the survey became known as the Pennsylvania Youth Survey (PAYS).

Governor’s Drug Policy Council. (1989). Alcohol, drugs and Pennsylvania’s youth: Generation at risk: The 1989 survey of Pennsylvania school students. Harrisburg, PA: Author.

Report (.pdf) (12.8 MB)

Survey instrument is in Appendix D of the report.