Social learning theory explanation
- Based on observational learning where the person being observed acts as a model for the observer.
- Firstly, an observer identifies with a model and observes their behaviour. The observer is more likely to identify with the model if they are the same sex, gender or age for example.
- The observer will decide if they are able to perform the behaviour and if they are, and they see the model positively reinforced for their behaviour, they are more likely to copy the behaviour.
- When the observer gets an opportunity to perform the behaviour they are likely to immitate it in order to receive the same reinforcement/reward.
Peer influence explanation
- Very important in explaining substance abuse.
- Social pressure and the encouragement of others play a role in both starting and continuing to abuse substances.
- Teenagers spend more time with their peers and less time with their families in social interaction compared to young children.
- The teenager often makes a choice about which group of friends they want to socialise with.
- With this often comes a sub-culture (chavs, goths, hippies etc.)
- This social selection means that some teenagers associate with groups known to abuse substances and so are at risk of becoming substance abusers themselves.
Study into peer influence
Aim: Investigated the role of peer influence in predicting adolescent substance abuse.
Method: 198 families took part in longitudinal study. Data was collected from mothers when they were pregnant and 18 years later from their children as teenagers. Information about peer substance abuse and the teenagers' own substance abuse was recorded.
Results:Substance abuse by the teenagers was significantly associated with peers abusing substances.
Conclusion:Teenagers modelled themselves on their peers. Peer pressure in the form of peer encouragement explained why teenagers started to abuse substances. There was also some evidence that those teenagers who abuse substances actively saught friends with similar interests.
- Important sociocultural factors that operate both within subcultures and across different cultures.
- Cross-cultural studies of substance abuse show there to be different levels of alcohol abuse in different cultures.
- In Taiwan the level of alcohol abuse is low, whilst in South Korea it is 4x higher. Different social norms operate in each country. In Taiwan it is socially acceptable to drink alcohol with an evening meal and on special occasions. However, getting drunk is socially unacceptable. In South Korea drinking after work with colleagues is normal and heavy drinking is socially acceptable.
Evaluation of the social factors and peer influenc
- Social influence and peer pressure may be ofset by the extent to which the teenager is involved with religion, school/college activities and conventional social institutions. Social control theory states that the stronger the attachement to these aspects of life, the less likely the person is to abuse substances.
- Personality factors are also known to counter social and peer influences. People with high self-efficacy who believe in their ability to determine their own behaviour are less influenced by peers.
- Moving from drug use to drug abuse may be more to do with personal characteristics than social influence and peer pressure. Heavy substance abuse may be best explained through a cumulative effect of social influence and personality.