Link Between Teen Substance Use and Perception of Control
This month, researchers from the University of Bristol discovered a new link between adolescent substance use and their locus of control. This potential indicator of future tobacco and alcohol consumption is particularly intriguing to parents the world over. But what is locus of control, and how do you identify warning signs of substance use? Read on to learn more.
What Is Locus of Control?
This key psychological concept is one that initially sounds foreign to many people, but is easily understood after a thorough explanation. Locus of control is, at its most basic level, one’s belief system about the causes of his or her experiences. It can be sorted into two categories: internal and external.
Someone with an internal locus of control attributes successes to their own efforts and talents. They generally expect to succeed, and more importantly, believe that their ability to complete tasks is sufficient. This serves as a motivator, resulting in people who are more eager to learn. They believe that their successes and failures are within their own control.
Phrases that may be attributed to those with an internal locus of control include:
- “If you work hard and commit yourself, you can achieve anything.”
- “There’s no such thing as fate.”
- “In the long run, people tend to get what they deserve in life.”
- “You get out of it what you put into it.”
- “If I just try very hard, I can do it.”
Those who have an external locus of control, however, believe they are not in control of their lives. Forces like luck and fate are commonly given credit for successes and blame for failures. The person themselves is almost never at fault for negative life events, and they may feel helpless to change their circumstances. For this reason, those with an external locus of control feel ungrounded and tend to experience higher levels of anxiety overall.
People with an external locus of control may say things like:
- “I often feel that I have little control over my life and what happens to me.”
- “Life is a game of chance.”
- “It isn’t worth setting goals, because too many things can happen that are out of my control.”
- “People rarely get what they deserve in life.”
While these may sound like direct positive and negative worldviews, it’s important to note that one is not “good” and the other “bad.” Though research generally indicates that those with positive loci are better off as a whole (more achievement oriented, better paying careers), this pattern is not completely universal.
Summary of Findings
The study, published in the journal titled Royal Society Open Science, analyzes data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. This study is also often called “Children of the ‘90s,” given its demographic makeup. This ongoing, longitudinal project is conducted by the University of Bristol. It began by collecting information from several thousand women who were pregnant during the early 1990s and continued by gathering data from their children as they aged.
Researchers focused on the data pertaining to locus of control, then drew correlations with self-reported drinking and smoking statistics. They reported a significant relationship between the two – those who had an external locus of control were more likely to begin smoking and become addicted to them as they aged. The study also showed some connection between locus of control and drinking.
This data can be used by parents as a warning sign for potential addiction. If children begin indicating that they believe their lives are out of their own control, this should be an opportunity for caregivers to clarify situations, establish healthy self-esteem, and explain the harms of substance use when applicable.
Substance Use Treatment for Teens and Young Adults
A large component of successful substance use treatment, especially for teens and young adults, is the establishment of improved self-esteem. By building up one’s faith in themselves, healthcare professionals create an atmosphere of empowerment. This can shift belief systems from an external to internal locus of control, resulting in more “I can do it” statements and fewer internal monologues about how the situation is hopeless to control.
For this reason, it can be extremely beneficial to enroll your teen in an age-specific program. Not only will they learn coping skills and reframe negative thoughts in a way that is relevant to their current stage in life, but they will spend time with others who are working through their same difficulties. This group feedback can be invaluable in crafting a healthier perception: they are not alone, many people struggle with this, and it’s possible to heal from addiction.
Pine Grove is one of America’s most comprehensive treatment campuses. Located in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, we understand lasting recovery and the tools required to get there. To learn more, call 1-888-574-4673 today.