Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

Exploring the Relationship between Social Interest, Social Bonding, and Collegiate Substance Abuse

Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

Exploring the Relationship between Social Interest, Social Bonding, and Collegiate Substance Abuse

Article excerpt

Substance abuse continues to be prevalent on college campuses. This study explored the relationships between social interest, social bonding, and hazardous drinking and marijuana use among college students. Results indicate that the social bonding elements of religious commitment, respect for authority, and acceptance of conventional beliefs, along with social interest, significantly differ between groups of students engaged in hazardous drinking and marijuana use.

Keywords: substance abuse, social interest, social bonding


The prevalence of substance abuse on college campuses in the United States continues to be problematic (Johnston, O'Malley, Bachman, & Schulenberg, 2010), with alcohol and marijuana identified as the two most commonly abused substances among college students (Core Institute, 2008). Furthermore, substance abuse is associated with a host of negative consequences, ranging from hangovers and poor test performance to drunk driving and suicide attempts (Core Institute, 2008).

Several variables have previously been found in the literature to predict substance abuse, including gender (Wechsler, Davenport, Dowdall, Grossman, & Zanakos, 1997), race (Wechsler, Dowdall, Davenport, & Castillo, 1995), Greek-life status (Barry, 2007), athletic status (Theall et al., 2009), and age of first drink (Johnson et al., 2010). In light of the pervasiveness of collegiate substance abuse and the need for prevention and intervention efforts that more consistently produce desired outcomes (Licciardone, 2003), a more comprehensive profile of students at risk for substance abuse is needed. Such a profile may be constructed through examining additional variables that address multiple facets of the individual. We propose that assessing both internal and external characteristics may provide a more holistic perspective of college students to aid in intervention efforts. The constructs of social interest and social bonding may indeed serve this purpose. Social interest is described as an innate and universal potential to be interested in the welfare of others (Adler, 1956). It refers to a personality trait or psychological process in which one desires to be socially useful and feels at home in the human community (Ansbacher, 1968). Thus, social interest can be considered an inward process or internal characteristic. Alternatively, one may assert that social bonding is an outward process or external characteristic, given that it refers to an individual's bond with conventional society through the elements of attachment, commitment, involvement, and belief (Hirschi, 1969). The construct considers one's bond with family, teachers, peers, time spent in conventional activities, and various behavioral manifestations reflecting a connection to society. Therefore, as social interest addresses an internal process or desire, social bonding captures external ties to conventional activities and individuals. Although both social interest and social bonding have been independently linked to collegiate substance abuse, the constructs have not been joined until now. Therefore, this study integrated the two empirically supported constructs within the same investigation to better understand collegiate substance abuse.

Social Interest

Denoted as the most salient aspect of Adler's writings (Ansbacher, 1968), social interest has been summarized to mean an interest in the welfare of others and sense of belonging in the human community (Ansbacher, 1992). Adler (1956) asserted that all individuals are born with the potential to develop social interest, which involves cooperation, empathy, identification with others, and harmony with the universe. Individuals with deficiencies in social interest engage in what Adler identified as socially nonuseful behavior, such as criminal acts, suicide, sexual deviance, and, most important for the current study, substance abuse.

Throughout years of empirical study, researchers have found positive correlations between social interest and desirable constructs such as goal attainment (LaFountain, 1996), happiness and empathetic concern (Watkins & Blazina, 1994), and life satisfaction (Gilman, 2001). …

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