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NIDA Res Monogr. 1983;47:195-232.

Prevention of adolescent substance abuse through social skill development.


The purpose of this chapter is to evaluate the capability of social skills training approaches for preventing adolescent substance abuse and to suggest directions for future research in this area. Social skills and training are defined from the perspective of social learning theory. Training approaches are then reviewed for their effect on drug use and drug use-related behaviors. The results indicate that social skills training reduces substance use and related behaviors such as aggression, withdrawal, truancy, and stealing in adolescents. Outcome was enhanced by the inclusion of modeling in a training program and the use of normal (versus problem or disordered) adolescents. In addition, discriminant analyses indicated that the more positive outcomes were discriminable by a focus on prevention, experimental rigor, and training comprehensiveness, that is, inclusion of multiple techniques and skills. Follow-up results showed that training effects were maintained, and that they could be generalized to several areas of everyday adolescent functioning. The findings suggest that social skills training is an effective means for substance abuse prevention in adolescents, and that it may have an advantage over more direct prevention methods in terms of long-term generalization capabilities. Finally, several issues are raised for their potential impact on social skills training as a strategy for substance abuse prevention in adolescents. These issues encompass conceptual, methodological, and evaluative domains: development of a taxonomy of person-situation specificity characteristics to increase the validity and reliability of assessment and training procedures; assessment of the relative contribution of individual differences in adolescents to training outcome; identification of qualitative developmental shifts in social skills as adolescents progress through grade, school, and family transitions; and comparison of the maintenance and generalization effects, over time, of social skills training with more direct abuse prevention methods. Guidelines are offered for addressing these issues, as well as directions for the role of social skills training research in future drug abuse prevention efforts.

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