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Drug Use and Social Learning Theory

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Submitted By Ruberts
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Theoretical and Conceptual
This study is anchored on Albert Bandura’s Social Learning theory. This theory states that learning is a cognitive process that takes place in a social context and can occur purely through observation or direct instruction (Bandura, 1963). Social learning theory holds that behavior is molded by rewards and punishment, or reinforcement. Past and present rewards and punishments for certain actions determine the actions that individuals continue to pursue. Reward and punishment structures are built into specific groups (Akers, 1992). By interacting with members of certain groups or social circles, people learn definitions of behaviors as good or bad. It is in the group setting, differentially for different groups, where reward and punishment take place, and where individuals are exposed to behavioral models and normative definitions of certain behaviors as good or bad . Social learning theory proposes that the use and abuse of psychoactive substances is caused by the differential exposure to groups in which use is rewarded. “These groups provide the social environments in which exposure to definitions, imitations of models, and social reinforcements for use of or abstinence from any particular substance takes place. The definitions are learned through imitation and social reinforcement of them by members of the group with whom one is associated” (Akers et al, 1979). Drug use, including abuse, is determined “by the extent to which a given pattern of behavior is sustained by the combination of the reinforcing effects of the substance with social reinforcement, exposure to models, definitions through association with using peers, and by the degree to which it is not deterred through bad effects of the substance and/or the negative sanctions from peers, parents, and the law” (Akers, 1992). Social learning theory, then, proposes that the extent…...

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