Social Representations Used by the Parents of Mexican Adolescent Drug Users under Treatment to Explain Their Children's Drug Use: Gender Differences in Parental Narratives

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Social representations (SRs) have been understood as social thought forms. Unlike some other theories that do not accept this kind of thinking in society, SRs are beliefs in a reflexive community that constantly communicates its thoughts in an attempt to account for its everyday problems through representations that are created and shared through interpersonal interactions (Moscovici, 1979).

In scenarios such as family life, life on the streets, meeting points, markets, street corners, and schools, people exchange ideas about their visions of the world, which in turn influence their social relationships. Moscovici (1979), who created this theory, argues that there are two knowledge universes: a reified universe and a consensual universe. Such a distinction is intended to place the type of knowledge according to the sphere where it is developed: scientific knowledge and common sense knowledge. In the reified universe, both forms of knowledge and individuals are integrated in a comprehensive, systematized, and hierarchical structure. Thought systems evolving in this universe impose truth criteria that constitute the "official reality." Because not every individual has the qualifications to be a part of the reified universe, it is an exclusive one. Individuals who have acquired certain competencies are welcomed into this universe in such a way that they can present themselves as psychologists, physicians, or researchers. They display their activities in organizations that possess their own communication channels and they share a specialized linguistic and conceptual repertoire. In other words, this knowledge universe is none other than that of science.

In contrast, the consensual universe is the sphere where common sense communications produced by the thinking society flow. An expert role is not necessary to be a part of it, because individuals who perceive themselves as equals, are free to express any thought and to construct with this their own theories. Thus, people may play the roles of amateur psychologists or physicians (Moscovici, 1979).

This study was conducted in an effort to comprehend a phenomenon that derives from common sense, where a group of parents of adolescent illegal drug users explained the onset of their children's drug use.

The literature regarding scientific explanations about the onset of adolescent drug use provides some background data. Petraitis, Flay, and Miller (1995) proposed a conceptual model to understand the etiology of drug use where they considered three types of influences: cultural and attitudinal, social, and interpersonal. In turn, these take into account three influence levels: proximal, distal, and remote. Another model included 50 onset-related factors, including the social, familial and demographic environments, the individual backgrounds, and the availability and distribution of drugs (Castro-Sarinana, 2001).

Other studies have found an association between the onset of drug use and familial substance use (Medina-Mora, Villatoro, Lopez, Berenzon, Carreno, & Juarez, 1995; Sanchez-Huezca, Guisa-Cruz, Ortiz-Encinas, & De Leon-Pantoja, 2002; Hopfer, Crowley, & Hewitt, 2003), poor and triangulated communication styles (Klein, Forehand, Armistead, & Long, 1997, family problems (Sokol, Dunham, & Zimmerman, 1997; Friedman & Glassman, 2000), marital conflicts and lack of common agreements (Klein et al., 1997), conflicts and fights between parents and offspring (Klein et al., 1997; Sokol et al., 1997), intergenerational alliances and coalitions (Graham, 1996; Straus & Kaufman, 1994; Yeh & Hedgespeth, 1995), domestic violence (Sanchez-Huezca et al., 2002; Graham, 1996; Straus & Kaufman, 1994), familial patterns that perpetuate addiction (Tomori, 1994), environment (Voelkl & Frone, 2000), family atmospheres where the members lack affection and do not express appreciation to each other (Yeh et al. …

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