Intraclass correlation among common measures of adolescent smoking: Estimates, correlates, and applications in smoking prevention studies

David M. Murray, Brenda L. Rooney, Peter J Hannan, Arthur V. Peterson, Dennis V. Ary, Anthony Biglan, Gilbert J. Botvin, Richard I. Evans, Brian R. Flay, Robert Futterman, J. Greg Getz, Pat M. Marek, Mario Orlandi, Mary Ann Pentz, Cherly L. Perry, Steven P. Schinke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

110 Scopus citations


Most adolescent smoking prevention studies employ designs in which classrooms, schools, school districts, or sometimes whole communities are assigned to treatment conditions while observations are made on individual students. The critical design feature in such community trials is the nesting of intact social groups within treatment conditions. This combination requires that the treatment effect be assessed against the between-group variance; unfortunately, that variance is usually larger than for randomly constituted groups and its precision is usually less than that for the within-group variance. These factors often combine to reduce power so that it is almost impossible to detect important treatment effects in an otherwise well designed and properly executed study. To address these problems, investigators need good estimates of the intraclass correlation for the variables of interest, which together with the number of observations per unit determine the magnitude of the extra variation in the nested design. The purpose of this paper is to describe the methods and results from a study designed to generate estimates of intraclass correlation for common outcomes in adolescent smoking prevention studies and to discuss the use of these estimates in the planning of new studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1038-1050
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican journal of epidemiology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Dec 1 1994

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by National Cancer Institute grant no. R01 CA 43323.

Funding Information:
Grantees funded by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute on Drug Abuse to conduct adolescent smoking prevention research during the 1980s were recruited as co-investigators for this study. The 11 investigators and their institutions are listed in table 1.


  • Adolescence
  • Clustering
  • Epidemiologic methods
  • Research design
  • Smoking
  • Statistics


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