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Predictive Factors for Substance Abuse in Adolescence Adrienne Marin Kaplan University PS220-02 March 4, 2012 Gerald Adamson


Predictive Factors for Substance Abuse in Adolescence According to Sullivan, Substance abuse is the continued use of a psychoactive substance at a level that violates approved social practices (Sullivan, 2009, p. 263). Nationwide, 32.2% of youth have drank alcohol and 11.3% have smoked marijuana all before the age of 13 (Eaton et al., 2010). Ecological systems theory discusses how a childs developmental outcomes are influenced by a series of interrelated systems (Bukatko, 2008). The relationships between these systems become more apparent when assessing risk factors for substance abuse in adolescence. My research has revealed that in the case of substance abuse, there is a constant dynamic occurring between systems just as Bronfenbrenner suggested. Factors such as low socioeconomic status, authoritarian parenting style mixed with lack of parental warmth, and a peer group involved in antisocial behaviors including substance use, display the relationship among systems as there is no one cause for adolescent substance abuse. Middle childhood is a time of a youths burgeoning independence. As a child enters school, they learn to communicate their needs more directly. Parenting style has an important effect on the development of a childs instrumental competence; a set of traits necessary to successfully negotiate the academic and social challenges of school such as independence, confidence, and good self-esteem. Bukatko explains that children who are raised by authoritative parents who encourage the development of instrumental competence, show more pro-social behaviors; fewer problem behaviors such as substance abuse (Bukatko, 2008, p. 345). In fact, most research on the subject has stated that parents who are overly controlling and/ or inconsistent in their discipline, such as found in the authoritarian and permissive types, tend to have children who develop substance abuse problems as teens and adults (Swan, 1995).

PREDICTIVE FACTORS IN SUBSTANCE ABUSE In the same study, researchers discuss that their findings suggest that families with substanceabusing children typically are unable to easily resolve problems and that the resulting confrontations negatively affect drug use (Swan, 1995). One then is able to infer that this lack

of instrumental competence will make it difficult to effectively regulate emotions, resolve family conflicts, and personal dilemmas. During middle childhood, family influences have a stronger effect on risk factors associated with substance abuse whereas peer influences take central precedence in adolescence. As children age to adolescence and spend more time away from home, the quality of peer group can determine how a child will develop and what behaviors they will adopt. One study states that peer encouragement to use substances plays a stronger role across the age range and also suggests that early peer influences may encourage higher levels of drug use at later ages (Swan, 1995). The same study states however, that positive family influences in early childhood can affect positive outcomes in regards to later substance abuse (Swan, 1995). In that regard, Sullivan explains the role of social learning in substance abuse that people will repeat those actions that provide them with some reward or pleasure (Sullivan, 2009, p. 275). For example, during adolescence, if one feels uncomfortable at a party, substances such as alcohol or MDMA (Ecstasy) could ease social anxiety enabling them to relate with their peer group with greater ease. Adolescents are known to use substances as a maladaptive coping mechanism toward pressures in the family and neighborhood. Sullivan explains that deviant behaviors are more likely to occur in neighborhoods of high poverty (Sullivan, 2009). Families of low socioeconomic status are more likely to be single-parent households where parental influence is usually lax or overly controlling. The stress of working low-wage employment to provide for

PREDICTIVE FACTORS IN SUBSTANCE ABUSE their family minimizes their ability to parent effectively. Adolescents then turn to their peer group as a source of support away from the family unit. In neighborhoods where poverty is high, it is likely that the cyclic nature of poverty can

perpetuate a mindset steeped in powerlessness and hopelessness. An adolescent is then unable to cope well enough to make better choices when battling multiple layers of peer pressure and negative neighborhood influences. This mindset is often subtle and accepted because it is so deeply entrenched in accepted cultural norms (Sullivan 2009). Furthermore, this level of hopelessness can often thwart any substantive progress or development, further continuing the cycle. Sullivan refers to these phenomena as a conflictual subculture, where one is led to believe that the influences and poverty they experience has total control over their lives (Sullivan 2009). Psychologically, Bukatko refers to this as learned helplessness; any positive growth, change, or opportunity is in control of outside forces as opposed to any effort on their end (Bukatko, 2008). This culture of poverty has been researched to be glamorized and more prevalent amongst minority youth (Sullivan 2009). Sullivan goes on to explain: certain social conditions discrimination, lack of opportunity, social isolation can produce a culture of poverty (Sullivan 2009). Watching the behaviors of those in their environment, adolescents learn negative coping skills. Drug use, violence, and other illegal behaviors may be thought of as viable alternatives to pro-social behaviors that may not be as readily witnessed in a positive context through the youths environment. These spheres of influence, then, can have a very negative effect on a developing child. On the same token, however, Bukatko describes interventions that involve positive community involvement where an adolescent is encouraged to develop instrumental competence and is given

PREDICTIVE FACTORS IN SUBSTANCE ABUSE positive, pro-social experiences to choose from, such as employment, community service, or educational enrichment (Bukatko, 2008). The tenuous developmental changes a child goes through biologically, cognitively, and emotionally leaves them susceptible to the influences in their immediate environment and the

world in larger context. It is important then, that a child be given positive examples of pro-social behaviors and are explained why these behaviors are favorable. What will life look like when certain paths are taken? Social learning and the development of instrumental competence is vital to this end. When a community values their youth and is committed to their success to rise above negative influences, positive change can be affected in mindset and behavior, empowering youth to move forward from the negative influences in their lives.

PREDICTIVE FACTORS IN SUBSTANCE ABUSE References Bukatko, D. (2008). Child & Adolescent Development: A Chronological Approach, 1st ed. Mason, Ohio: Cengage Learning. Eaton, D. K., Kann, L., Kinchen, S., Shanklin, S., Ross, J., Hawkins, J., Whittle, L., et al. (2010). Youth risk behavior surveillanceUnited States, 2009. MMWR Surveill Summ, 59(5), 1142. Sullivan, T. J. (2009). Introduction to Social Problems, 8th Edition. Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc. Swan, N. (1995). Early Childhood Behavior and Temperament Predict Later Substance Use. NIDA Notes: Substance Abuse May be predicted in Early Childhood. Retrieved March

11, 2011, from