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?

Its assumption is that human behaviour is essentially learned, including antisocial or deviant behaviours, such as drug use. Deviance is not simply an anomalous situation that occurs when there is a rupture in prosocial norms and bonds, but both prosocial and deviant norms are actively learned in the process of primary socialization.

Socialization is the process by which social norms and behaviours are learned, and is developed through the family, school and peer group (especially close friends) related processes. The interaction between the individual and these sources of primary socialization determines normative or deviant behaviours. If the child's ties to family and school are strong, he/she will develop prosocial norms; if they are weak, primary socialization during adolescence will be dominated by the peer group. If adequate internalization of prosocial norms is lacking and deviant peers are the most influential ones, involvement in deviant behaviours will be more likely.

The personal traits of adolescents (intelligence, physical and personality characteristics) exert an indirect influence on primary socialization, acting as risk factors or protective factors for drug use or deviant behaviour. These behaviours are also influenced by the so-called secondary socialisation resources: the community and its characteristics, the extended family, different social groups, religious institutions and the general context of peers.

Which determinants can be addressed?

This model/approach works on personal and environmental determinants, such as attitudes (both personal and from the immediate social environment) towards the consumption of drugs, alcohol and tobacco in the family environment and in the group of friends, the relationship with peers with deviant behaviours, family relations (family climate, etc.) or the norms and values of the different socialisation environments.

Practical implications

This theory highlights the role played by the various socialization instances as regulators of drug consumption, and other deviant behaviours, at different stages of development. So it will be important to strengthen links with socializing instances such as the family or the school (as long as they are not dysfunctional). In addition, it points out the importance of strengthening interpersonal, proximal and cultural environments that promote lifestyles free from drug use. In other words, contexts where the option of not  using drugs is the one that can be learned most easily.



Oetting ER & Donnermeyer JF. (1998). Primary socialization theory: The etiology of drug use and deviance. I. Substance Use & Misuse, 33, 995-1026.