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The Deviant Behavior Of Adolescent Drugs Social Work Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Social Work
Wordcount: 4252 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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An individual would be considered to be acting deviantly if they are in violation of significant social norms of a particular society. What causes humans to act certain ways has been a largely disputed topic among researchers for some time now. With respect to numerous studies that have been performed throughout history, no one group or researcher has come up with an accurate reason as to why people behave deviantly. My own curiosity is to discover the influences or reasons behind the deviant behavior of drug using among adolescents. The proliferation of drug using among adolescents signals a larger societal problem that may include, a rejection of societal norms, which is the product of social conditions and relationships that cause anguish, frustration, hopelessness, and general feelings of isolation or alienation. I believe the greatest threat concerning the popularity of drugs is the dramatic increase of their recreational use within the mainstream, the “normalization” of such drugs represents to some a serious set of risk factors that need to be addressed.

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Drug using behaviors can be analyzed on the basis of the social process theory which consists of three major classes: social learning theory, social control theory, and social reaction theory. The various social process theories of delinquency examine the interaction between individuals and their environments for clues to the initial causes and reasons for deviant behaviors; in this case drug using and possible addictions. Most youngsters are influenced by the family, the school experience, and their peers; it is the process of socialization occurring within these social institutions that, along with social structure, provides the forces that either protects adolescents/teenagers from or influences them to commit deviant acts.

It is no mystery that teenage drug using is on the rise; one of the most popular drugs is marijuana as a result of its accessibility and affordability. Marijuana is a mixture green and brown flowers, sticks, seeds, and leaves produced from the plant Cannabis. The main chemical in marijuana is called THC. Marijuana can be smoked in the form of a cigarette or pipe. It is also smoked in cigars that have been emptied of tobacco. Marijuana’s ingredients with can be mixed in food or tea. Each year in America, an estimated 20,000 deaths are from the use of illegal drugs. Different drugs have different effects on people. Scientists have studied and learned about THC and how it affects the brain. When marijuana is smoked, THC passes from the lungs to the bloodstream, and carries the chemical to the brain and all other organs in the body. The chemical produces a number of cellular reactions that lead to users experiencing a “high” when smoking marijuana. Illegal drug use causes fatal infections and illnesses in the body and brain damage; the cognitive thinking process is destroyed from the chemicals used in drugs.

The adolescent year’s is often associated with a turmoil of emotions, and feelings and all in all being a confusing, challenging time; teens want and need to feel acceptance in his/her own family and peers which can make them vulnerable to falling into a destructive pattern of deviance or drug use. Some adolescents have resorted to drug use for a variety of reasons which may include peer pressure, family relationships, or sometimes wanting to relieve themselves of stress. While most teens probably see their drug use as a casual way to have fun or “get-away”, there are negative effects that occur as a result. Even if adolescent drug use does not necessarily lead to adult drug abuse, there are still risks and consequences. These negative effects usually include a drop in academic performance or interest, and strained relationships with family or friends. Adolescent drug use can greatly alter behavior, and a new preoccupation with drugs can crowd out activities that were once previously important. Drug use can also change friendships as teens begin to associate more with fellow drug users, who encourage and support one another’s drug use.

There has been a lot of contribution in terms of studies and research that has been done in this field especially with a lot of concern due to the rise of teen drug abuse within the country and the devastating consequences that follow the issue. There are many people who point fingers at the teenagers who engage in taking drugs without actually understanding the reasons why they do so. For one, socialization is vital and takes place within the family first and foremost. From the moment a child is born to the moment they enter into adult hood, they are socialized by their families as to what is right or wrong, what is accepted and what is not; as well as throughout life. There is a relationship between family structure and adolescent drug use. A National Portrait of Family Structure and Adolescent Drug Use by John P. Hoffmann and Robert A. Johnson uses three years of data from the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse. According to this article, family structure is significant when it comes to effects on teenagers. The article looks at the distribution of drug use among adolescents aged 12-17 years by family structure. Additionally the authors identify the risk of drug use, including problem use, is highest among adolescents in father-custody families (father-only and father-stepmother families), even after taking into consideration factors such as, age, race-ethnicity, family income, and residential mobility. Low-income families are presumed to affect adolescent development in a negative manner, especially in areas of academics and child’s motivations; it is difficult for parents to support activities that are beneficial to their children. This suggests that differences in economic resources explain some relationship between family structure and negative outcomes among adolescents. The article compares the prevalence of drug use among adolescents from mother-father families, single-parent families, stepparent families, and other family types. Findings concluded that stepparent families and father-only families tend to be more mobile than other family types; the lowest prevalence of use of marijuana and other illicit drugs is reported by adolescents who live in mother-father families; the highest prevalence of marijuana use, other drug use, and problem use is reported by adolescents in father-stepmother, father-only, and other relative-only families. (640) The author recognizes that, “Family structure, especially when changes occur, affects relations between parents and adolescents. Changes in family structure are linked to heightened stress in the family, and this stress may lead to behavioral problems such as the initiation or escalation of drug use.” (643) Even though this research was useful in explaining how family structure has a relationship with whether or not adolescents choose to experiment with drugs, it does not explain the effects of patterns of parent-child socialization. Additionally, Hoffmann and Johnson concluded that hypotheses involving economic resources or mobility did sufficiently explain the effects of family structure on adolescent drug use.

The Community Context of Family Structure and Adolescent Drug Use seeks to build on the work of Hoffman and Johnson by connecting the impact of family structure on adolescent’s behavior in terms of their environment or the community in which they live. Hoffman’s new hypothesis in this article, suggests that community characteristics affect family structure in particular ways, which then leads to drug use:

Families that live in better-off communities have a host of extra familial resources to draw upon in raising children, so the community is seen as a key characteristic that affects whether adolescents from different types of families behave in deviant or normative ways. Single parents-in particulars single mothers-of-ten do not have the resources to live in well-off communities and are less able than other parents to move to more financially secure areas; thus, their ability to raise children may be hampered. Two-parent families are usually in better financial situations than single-parent families; thus, they are allowed much more flexibility about where to live. (315)

The article also states that single-parent families are constrained in their choice of communities and often must live in resource poor areas as a result of their socio-economic status which ultimately, has an influence on adolescent behavior. The article discusses the relationship between family structure and drug use; communities that are lacking economic and social resources will have an impact on adolescent behavior thus causing drug use. Disadvantaged neighborhoods increases the likelihood of drug use because it increases the number of social stressors to which individuals are exposed. Neighborhood disadvantage increases the likelihood of drug use because it decreases social resources (family contact, decreases positive social support, and increases negative social interactions). For example, communities that consist of many single-mother families often do not promote sufficient parent-child interaction, but community residents may offer alternative adult figures for adolescents from single-parent families by offering social support and supervision. The data used to support this research was taken from the National Educational Longitudinal Study (NELS), a study designed to explore the relationships among families, schools, and educational outcomes. Findings indicated that compared to mother-father families, mother-only families tend to reside in areas that are urban; more integrated, and have a higher proportion of female-headed households, joblessness, and poverty. Other family types are relatively likely to reside in high-poverty communities, whereas mother-father families are more likely to live in low-poverty areas. Father-stepmother families tend to live in relatively low-poverty communities. Compared to mother-father families, mother-only families report lower family income, more residential mobility, less parental supervision of adolescents, higher dropout risk, and are more likely to be found among Black youth than among White youth. The community context model findings indicated that the highest levels of drug use are found not in mother-only families but among adolescents in father-only and father-stepmother families. Reasons for this are adolescents from single-parent families tend to have poorer relations (interactions) with parents and they move more often. Even though this study has shown that community characteristics have adverse effects on drug use, the question that remains unanswered involves the characteristics of single-parent and step parent families that lead to consistent effects on adolescent drug use.

Drug Abuse in the Inner City: Impact on Hard-Drug Users and the Community by Johnson, Bruce D, Bruce Terry Williams, Kojo A. Dei, and Harry Sanabria seeks to explain the effects of drug abuse in the inner city. It proposes that the effects of drug abuse in the inner city has considerably contributed to a decline in the economic well-being of most users and sellers, an environment of poor health and risk of death at an early age, and lastly a weakening of family relationships. It is important to note that youths who grow up in disadvantaged communities are exposed to a range of stressful life conditions, such as their exposure to violence, crime, and drugs. In turn, these factors can increase their likelihood of developing emotional, behavioral, and drug use problems. The article states:

Massive amounts of evidence now document the deterioration of the inner city. During the period 1960-80, the number of persons living in communities (or census tracts) primarily occupied by low-income (including welfare and unemployed) blacks and Hispanics approximately doubled between 1968 and 1980, employment rates declined substantially (from 78 to 55 percent) for nonwhites-mainly blacks. (10)

Even more living situations in inner-city communities have severe social and economic implications for individuals. Involvement with drugs (that is prevalent among poverty-ridden neighborhoods) is a major factor in creating individuals who will experience multiple social problems, with wide-ranging negative impacts on their families and neighborhoods.

Delinquency and Drug Abuse: Implications for Social Services by Hawkins, J. David, Jeffrey M. Jenson, Richard F. Catalano, and Denise M. Lishner demonstrates that there is a connection between adolescent drug abuse and delinquency. The authors discusses numerous risk factors for drug abuse including early frequency and variety of antisocial behaviors in the primary grades of elementary school, parent and sibling drug use and criminal behavior (children whose parents or siblings engage in crime or drug use are themselves at greater risk for these behaviors), poor and inconsistent family management practices (children raised in families with lax supervision, excessively severe or inconsistent disciplinary practices, and little communication and involvement between parents and children), family conflict, family social and economic deprivation, school failure, Low degree of commitment to education and attachment to school, peer factors, attitudes and belief, neighborhood attachment and community disorganization, mobility, and personality factors. (260-266).

Coming back to an earlier question, adolescent drug use can be explained by parent-child interaction. Research suggests that there is a relationship between the role of parental practices and adolescents drug involvement. An article, written by Denise B. Kandel, Parenting Styles, Drug Use, and Children’s Adjustment in Families of Young Adults relates:

Drug use by children and adolescents has been found to be related to lack of affection, lack of acceptance of the child by the parent, conflictual mutual detachment, poor identification of the child with the parent, poor discipline, weak or excessive parental controls, parental control through guilt, lack of supervision of the child’s activities, and inconsistency. (185)

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Data was collected from Clinical Samples in order to examine marital patterns as well as parenting and children’s behaviors in families in which one or both parents are drug abusers or alcoholics and have sought treatment for their condition. Findings found that the, “childrearing factors characterizing families with a drug-abusing or alcoholic parent or the families of adolescents in the general population who get involved in drugs are identical to the factors that have been implicated as risk factors for early manifestations of antisocial behavior among children in normal population samples.”(185)These factors included lack of parental supervision, parental rejection, and lack of parental involvement. Three hypotheses were examined by Kandel’s study including: (186)

1. Certain parenting practices-in particular, lack of monitoring, low warmth, and high parental conflict-are associated with lower levels of functioning in the children and, in particular, with greater acting-out and control problems.

2. Young adults with a history of involvement in drugs will be more likely to exhibit deficient parental practices.

3. The children of young adults with a history of drug involvement will be less well adjusted and, in particular, will manifest more control problems, than their peers.

Data was also collected from a group of young adults aged 28-29 who have been followed since they were 15-16 years old. Respondents answered self-administered, structured questionnaires in their schools in 1971 and were re-interviewed in person in 1980 and in 1984. According to this study, the strongest links were between parental discipline and child aggression, and between parental closeness and child attachment to the parent. Parents who report using harsh methods of disciplining their children or disagreeing with their spouses about how to discipline the child are more likely to report that their children are aggressive, have control problems, and are disobedient. Parents who report that they have close interactions and engage in much talk and discussion with them are more likely also to report that their children are well adjusted, establish positive relations with their parents, are not detached from them, do not have control problems, and are independent. There is a correlation between poorer parenting and drug use. Findings also included a relationship between parental drug use and control problems in their children. It is a fact that behavioral problems in childhood and early adolescence are among the earliest signs of adolescent drug involvement as well as delinquency; conduct problems and drug use appear to develop in families characterized by similar childrearing styles as put forth by Kandel. Additionally, male children who engage in both fighting and drug use appear to belong to families with the most disrupted parenting. This shows that certain parenting styles stimulate deviant behaviors in the children, who, when they grow up, reproduce these very same patterns in a spiral of self-perpetuating deviance.

The assumption that the home environment influences the behavior of youths is widely accepted. But while many might agree that family life is an important factor in precluding or promoting drug abuse, they disagree on the way in which it influences behavior. Some have argued that poor parent-child attachments leads to a lack of commitment to conventional activities, and that this is sufficient to produce conditions fostering use as already discussed. But there is a growing body of evidence that suggests that drug use is also socially induced and socially controlled by fellow peers. The school is a child’s first proving ground outside of the home. It gives the child a chance to prove his/her adaptability and capacity to conform to rules enforced by non-parental authority. Peer influences have been found to be among the strongest predictors of drug use during adolescence. It has been argued that peers initiate youth into drugs, provide drugs, model drug-using behaviors, and shape attitudes about drugs. There was a study done to determine how much peer pressure affected adolescent drug use. The most striking finding is the crucial role which peers play in the use of drugs by other adolescents. Involvement with other drug-using adolescents is the most important correlate of adolescent marihuana use. Denise Kandel examines how influential parents are compared to the peer group in, Adolescent Marihuana Use: Role of Parents and Peers. She obtained data from adolescents, their parents, and their best school friends in a sample of secondary school students in New York State. According to her findings, drug use by peers exerts a greater influence than drug use by parents. Friends are more similar in their use of marihuana than in any other activity or attitude. According to this article, the highest rates of marihuana usage are observed among adolescents whose parents and friends are drug users. The article states:

Adolescent marihuana use is strongly related not only to friends perceived marihuana use but to the friend’s self-reported use. Only 7 percent of adolescents who perceive none of their friends to use marijuana use marijuana themselves, in contrast to 92 percent of those who perceive all their friends to be users. When adolescent marihuana use is correlated with the self-reported marihuana use patterns of best school friends the proportion of users ranges from 15 percent when the best friend has never used marihuana to 79 percent when the friend has used it 60 times or more. (1068)

Most importantly, the Kandel highlights that children of non-drug using parents are somewhat less likely to use drugs, whereas children of drug using parents are more likely to use drugs.

Family and peer relations are two of the most important socializing forces affecting adolescent behavior in terms of drug use and deviance in general. Through these relationships, adolescents learn to conform to or deviate from societal standards. Differential association, drift, and social control theories, provide and outlet for understanding aspects of the social environment as a determining factor of individual behavior. Differential association theory focuses on how individuals learn crime from others, drift theory proposes that any assessment of the process of becoming deviant must take into consideration both the internal components of the individual and the influence of the external environment (otherwise known as Neutralization theory), and social control theory provides an explanation for why some young people violate the law while others resist. Theory is important in assessing behavior; Edwin H. Sutherlands and Ronald Akers formulation of differential association theory is useful in explaining how family structures, peer structures and community structures contribute to drug using among adolescent. Differential association theory implies that if individuals learn deviant behaviors from close associations with other people, then the more they are exposed to pro-social groups, the more likely it is that they will be deter from deviant behavior as in using drugs. Jackson, Elton F., Charles R. Tittle, and Mary Jean Burke, Offense-Specific Models of the Differential Association Process discuss Edwin H. Sutherland’s formulation of differential association theory where he proposed that delinquents learn crime from others. His basic premise was that delinquency, like any other form of behavior, is a product of social interaction. In developing his theory of differential association, Sutherland believed that individuals are constantly being changed as they take expectations and various perspectives of the people with whom they interact. It is difficult for one to reject the argument that juveniles learn crime or in my case criminal activities like drug using behaviors from others (primarily the family or peer groups). As already pointed out, individuals learn basic values, norms, and skills from others; accordingly, the idea is that they also learn criminal behavior. However, it is important to note that one does not have to be in direct contact with others to learn from them. They can learn such behaviors from the surrounding environment.

With the accumulated knowledge and research about drug use, it provides a framework for prevention. It appears that abuse is caused by early use of conventional drugs and by family and peer related social conditions that preclude or promote drug use. Interventions should create opportunities for adolescents to experience success in family relationships, school, and peer relationships. They should address the beliefs of parents and peers that may promote the use of illicit substances. In addition, adolescent drug use strategies should focus on strengthening those skills of parents, teachers, and youths that may lead to strong parent child attachments, consistency in discipline, clear antidrug values, and attachment to youths or adults who are committed to fundamental norms of society. To strengthen youth’s social behavioral skills, decision-making and problem-solving training should be undertaken; training should prepare youths to effectively resist peer pressures by teaching that saying “no” to offered drugs that is socially acceptable. From a community perspective, the entire social support network must be addressed such that a climate of non-drug use is created. Family approaches or school programs alone are unlikely to alter the web of influences that socializes youths to the use of drugs. Some proposed preventions for delinquency and drug use from, Delinquency and Drug Abuse: Implications for Social Services include, early childhood education with parent involvement, parent training prevention strategies, and life skills training in schools including cognitive skills training, proactive classroom management, law-related education, problem-solving and behavioral skills training, enhancement of instruction to broaden academic success, social influence strategies, and school-based health clinics. (270-276)

There are a variety of other factors that have not been taken into consideration in this research that may affect relationships and drug use among adolescents. For example, the availability of extended family members and peers who live nearby or with whom the adolescent comes in frequent contact might affect the risk of adolescent drug use. Similarly, the availability of resources such as strong schools may offer youth from single or stepparent family’s alternative activities that discourage drug use or that encourage strong attachment to families and communities. Adolescent drug use is strongly linked to patterns of risk taking or harmful behavior. In today’s mainstream, drugs such as marijuana is recognized as being one of the most popular with today’s generation of adolescence and that is most troubling.


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