Summary of Fairfax County Results from the 2003 Virginia Community Youth Survey

Fairfax County Office of Public Affairs
12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 551
Fairfax, VA 22035-0065
703-324-3187, TTY 703-324-2935, FAX 703-324-2010

May 6, 2004


Summary of Fairfax County Results from the 2003 Virginia Community Youth Survey


In November 2003, The Virginia Community Youth Survey was administered to a random sample of Fairfax County students as part of an initiative sponsored by a consortium of agencies of the commonwealth of Virginia. The survey was conducted to obtain valid statewide data about youth behaviors – those that are positive as well as those that are harmful. This information provides insight into the prevalence and frequency of substance abuse, antisocial behaviors and positive behaviors. Survey results provide Fairfax County with a barometer of the effectiveness of our community in fostering healthy choices in our youth and assisting in the development of prevention strategies.

The 2003 survey instrument was similar to that used for the 2001 Fairfax County Communities That Care Youth Survey. These survey instruments are based on research funded by the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and follow nationally set protocols and standards. The protocols used to assess validity on the 2003 data are similar to those used on the 2001 data. In 2003, 4,239 students in 8th, 10th and 12th grades completed the survey, representing nearly 13 percent of the total student membership in the grades surveyed. The population of students surveyed is representative of the demographic composition of the Fairfax County Public Schools as a whole.

The results of the 2003 Fairfax County survey respondents parallel national youth survey results, indicating decreases in use of most substances. As in 2001, slightly lower rates of substance use were reported by Fairfax County respondents as compared to the national survey results in the 2003 Monitoring the Future. An exception is that use of cigarettes in the past 30 days by Fairfax County 12th grade students was 27.6 percent – slightly higher than the national average of 24.4 percent.

Despite generally lower rates of substance use, these risk behaviors reported by our youth continue to be of concern. Substance use was categorized as both “lifetime” (any use of a substance, even once in their lifetime) and “30-day” (use of a substance within the last 30 days). Decline in reported rates of risk behaviors is seen across gender, race/ethnicity, and grade levels and in both lifetime and 30-day reported use. Significant findings from the 2003 survey of Fairfax County students focus on 30-day use of various substances as these more accurately represent current use.

Survey responses indicate that in the 30 days prior to survey administration:

  • Use of alcohol was reported by:
    o 12.8 percent of 8th graders – compared to 21 percent in 2001.
    o 33.2 percent of 10th graders – compared to 36 percent in 2001.
    o 45.8 percent of 12th graders – compared to 53.4 percent in 2001.
    o 27.6 percent of 12th graders reported binge drinking in the last two weeks – compared to 31 percent in 2001. (binge drinking is defined as five or more drinks in a row)
  • Marijuana use was reported by:
    o 2.8 percent of 8th graders – compared to 5.1 percent in 2001.
    o 11.6 percent of 10th graders – compared to 13.3 percent in 2001.
    o 20.8 percent of 12th graders – compared to 22.4 percent in 2001.
    o Use of inhalants was reported by 6.5 percent of 8th graders – a slight increase in use compared to 4.7 percent in 2001.
  • Cigarette use was reported by
    o 4.1 percent of 8th graders – compared to 9.3 percent in 2001.
    o 12.4 percent of 10th graders – compared to 15.4 percent in 2001.
    o 26.7 percent of 12th graders – compared to 29.6 percent in 2001.
    o In both 2001 and 2003, substance use rates increase progressively as youth grow older.

Reported rates of other risk behaviors either declined or showed little change in 2003.

Results to note:

  • 4.4 percent of youth surveyed indicated that they belonged to a gang at some time – compared to 5.6 percent in 2001. The Board of Supervisors’ continued commitment to reducing gang involvement and activity and collaborative programs between the county and the school system are examples of success in this area.
  • 10.1 percent of respondents reported being drunk or high at school at some time in the past 12 months – compared to 12.1 percent in 2001.
  • 5.3 percent of respondents reported selling drugs “on any occasion” – compared to 5.9 percent in 2001.
  • 10.7 percent of respondents indicated “they had attacked someone with intent to harm” - compared to 11.5 percent in 2001.

Reasons for declining rates of substance use include increased national and local attention to the issues of youth risk behaviors; national and local media campaigns; community support for youth programs; prevention education in community and schools; successful substance abuse treatment; public safety outreach efforts; and a general increase in community and parent awareness of risk behaviors.

“The survey is invaluable as the partnership continues to work with public and private entities to identify where we need to focus resources,” said Huey Battle, president of the Fairfax Partnership for Youth Inc. “While we are heartened that some youth risk behaviors are decreasing, at least in part as a result of collaborative community efforts, we know that Fairfax County has more work to do on behalf of and with our young people so that these numbers decline significantly. We hope that the data from this survey will engage even more like-minded organizations and individuals to join us in creating the kind of community where our youth can thrive.”

Following the release of the 2001 survey, the Fairfax Partnership for Youth spearheaded a collaborative community dialogue that included school staff, county agencies and other community organizations. As a result of this collaboration, more than 250 community meetings were held to share the results and discuss community responses, and video presentations were made on community and school cable networks. In addition, 15,000 copies of the publication “Everyone’s Child” were distributed at school and community meetings in multiple languages. The publication included results of the survey along with information on risk and protective factors, indicators of substance use, and prevention and intervention strategies.

Information and data gained from the 2001 youth survey was used to make decisions about county and school programs and to obtain more than $1 million in grant funds for county youth prevention services.

When the Virginia Community Youth Survey results are released by the state in early summer, additional comparisons with the Fairfax County survey results, including the risk and protective factors, will be analyzed and reported.

Fairfax County youth survey reports for 2001 and 2003 are available online at

For more information, contact the Fairfax County Office of Public Affairs at 703-324-3187, TTY 703-324-2935.



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