Social Learning Conceptualization for Substance Abuse: Implications for Therapeutic Interventions

Theodoros Giovazolias, Olga Themeli


Substance misuse and abuse among adolescents and young adults, especially students, remain a significant public health issue, often associated with serious academic, psychological and health problems. Theoretical models of social behaviour emphasize the importance of peer behaviour as a modelling or normative influence. The processes by which social influence factors contribute to substance misuse behaviour have been described in models derived from the social learning paradigm, including both socio-environmental (e.g. social modelling, perceived norms) and coping skills and cognitive variables (e.g. self-efficacy, outcome expectancies). However, this growing body of the literature often reveals contradictory findings regarding the precise mechanisms of processes by which social and cognitive variables may influence substance misuse in youth populations. This review critically examines the literature on different forms of peer influence and accordingly provides suggestions for intervention strategies that take into consideration the relevant research findings on social learning constructs.


social learning; norms; self-efficacy; youth; substance abuse; counselling interventions