n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Psychosocial predictors of substance abuse among adolescents

Volume 16, Issue 4
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



A review of the literature indicates that the etiology of substance abuse amongst adolescents is still largely unclear. It is, however, generally accepted that it cannot be ascribed to a single variable, but rather to a complex interaction between intrapersonal and interpersonal characteristics. In order to assess these characteristics in adolescents who abuse substances and those who do not, a multicultural group of 302 Grade 11 learners completed a biographical questionnaire, the NEO Personality Inventory, the Adolescent SASSI-A2 and the Fortitude Scale. The various characteristics of these adolescents were compared with regard to the three levels of substance use, namely low probability of use, abuse, and dependence on substances. Significant differences were found in the mean scores concerning agreeableness, conscientiousness, self-appraisal, family support and general social support between the three levels of substance-use groups. These results confirm findings of other researchers that emphasised the importance of intra- and interpersonal variables which contribute to the adolescents' decisions about substance abuse. which substance abuse and dependence manifests itself. This viewpoint and the results of the present study support a more holistic view of substance abuse, looking at the individual as a whole and, in the process, underlining not only intra- and interpersonal factors, but also the interaction between them.

However, the etiology of substance abuse should always be interpreted against the background of certain core principles in Psychology. Firstly, the multidimensionality of the etiology of basically all human behaviour is widely accepted. Secondly, there also is general acceptance of the fact that there is a unique interaction between all variables involved. Thirdly, every individual, and therefore also substance abuser and dependant, is unique and does not fit into a single formula for the explanation of behaviour. The aforementioned also applies to the domains of life in on black children. The researcher, a social worker in the South African Police Service, has contact with sexually abused children from different race groups on a daily basis. Her experience was that black children in their mid-childhood years, were very reluctant to verbalise what had happened to them during assessment. For this research, the researcher utilised 11 play techniques with black girls in their midchildhood years through the aid of a translator. These techniques lead to the disclosure of sexual abuse in all six cases.

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