STAGE 4. Selecting the theoretical approach

What steps should be completed?

Step 1: Select the theoretical approach or approaches on which the intervention will be based


What are its bases?

The theory considers that behaviour is the result of learning factors, cognitive processes and the social context in which the person lives and develops. Its basic assumptions are: 1) People learn much of their behaviour and knowledge by observing the behaviour of other individuals (models) and the consequences they experience, and 2) Expectations, beliefs, perceived self-efficacy and people's intentions have a remarkable effect on their behaviour.

This theory emphasises the importance of the social environment for the initiation of drug use and considers the behaviours and attitudes in the immediate environment (family, friends, school, etc.) in which the person develops as a framework in which the establishment of emotional links with the environment plays a very important role. It also takes into account how these factors can interact with aspects of personality, perceived self-efficacy and more general contextual factors, such as drug price and accessibility.

According to this theory, drug use behaviours are mediated by cognitions, consisting of expectations of results (beliefs about the effects of drug use behaviours), and by self-efficacy, understood to be the perception of the personal ability to cope with drug-related situations, such as skills to cope with the social pressure to use drugs or the emotions that arise from these situations.

Which determinants can be addressed?

Personal determinants, such as expectations and attributions of drug use, correction of misconceptions or myths about health and drugs, values (caring for health, respect for differences, etc.) and the social and personal skills that improve people’s social competence, and contextual determinants, such as drug use in the family environment or in a group of friends, drug availability and accessibility.

Practical implications

This theory suggests the use of training in social and life skills (assertiveness, decision-making, communication, tolerance to frustration, empathy, managing feelings, self-esteem, etc.), through modelling, guided practice and interactive methods that encourage active processing of information relevant to the person, as an element to enable them to live autonomously and make reasoned decisions in environments promoting drug use (peer pressure, publicity, etc.). It is also an inspiration to develop mass media campaigns.



Bandura A. (1969). Principles of behaviour modification. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Bandura A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action. A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs NJ: Prentice-Hall.