Chapter 5.0: Social Context and Physical Environment Models of Substance Misuse

Ch. 5.4: Key Terms

circularity of influence: the iterative pattern of mutual influence operating between an individual and their social/physical contexts whereby each influences the other over time.

codependency: describes a pattern of dysfunctional behaviors between two individuals, one with a disease/disorder (e.g., addiction) and the other who becomes emotionally and psychologically dependent on the partner’s disordered behavior at the expense of his or her own self and needs. Note that this is a controversial concept!

compensatory parenting: the assumption of unfulfilled parenting functions by significant others who are not in a parent relationship/role with the child.

deviance theory: theory explaining behavior that is outside the bounds of or violates conventional norms of society.

eco-map: diagrammatic representation of an individual’s (or family’s) relationships with its formal and informal systems operating in the environmental context.

enabling: providing the opportunity to engage in addictive behavior, particularly with reference to removing negative/punishing consequences that would naturally discourage such behavior. Note: this is a controversial concept!

exosystem: elements of the social ecology that have an indirect effect on individual development and behavior without the individual’s regular, direct interaction; the effect is often mediated through more intimate systems.

family disease model: a perspective about addiction as a disease affecting the entire family, not just the individual experiencing addiction. Note: elements of this model are controversial!

family system: the family is viewed in systems dynamic terms where the family is more than a group of related individuals; it involves the interactions, relationships, and roles that exist across the family, as well as both how individuals affect the system and how the system affects individuals.

gene-by-environment interaction (or gene x environment interaction): the interplay between intrinsic genetic and extrinsic social/physical context forces to determine outcomes.

homeostasis: the tendency for dynamic systems is to attain/maintain/retain a state of balance where energy expenditure is minimized.

homophily: the principle describing a human tendency to engage socially with people similar to ourselves.

labeling theory: sociological principal explaining individuals’ deviant behaviors as resulting from having a deviant label applied to them; living up to the label applied to them.

macrosystem: the broad cultural systems in which individuals live and that influence individual development and behavior.

mesosystem: systems that have direct impact on individual development and behavior through their interaction with the more intimate microsystem within which the individual exists.

microaggression: insults, dismissal, and degradation of individuals, usually from a group defined by race or ethnicity; while these incidents fall short of physical aggression, they are experienced as a form of violence by the persons targeted.

microsystem: the most immediate, direct social system with which individuals interact on a regular basis, having a strong direct impact on individual development and behavior.

physical environment: elements of the places and spaces where individuals develop and function on a regular basis, offering opportunities or barriers that influence individual development and behavior.

role theory: many behaviors are determined or influenced by the social categories and functions (roles) an individual occupies and fulfills at the time; role expectations are defined by the social context rather than by the individual alone.

social contexts: the array of social relationships forming the context for an individual’s development and behavior, offering opportunities or barriers that influence individual development and behavior.

social control theory: avoiding deviant behavior and compliance with laws and norms is encouraged by social relationships, commitments, “stake in conformity,” and majority-held norms.

social-ecological model: first described by Uri Bronfenbrenner, this model explains the impact of multiple levels of social systems on individual development and behavior; these social systems and institutions interact and include micro-, meso-, exo-, and macro-system elements. Note: this general model can be extended to the family system being at the center and consideration of the family’s micro- to macro-systems.

social norms: a culture’s or group’s collective expectations about acceptable behavior.

sociocultural theories: theories or models of etiology/causation addressing aspects of the social environment and cultural contexts and their impact on development and/or behavior.

stake in conformity: individuals vary in terms of the number and strength of social bonds formed within conventional society; presumably, the greater the cumulative bond strength, the greater the motivation to conform to conventional norms. (see social control theory)

stigma: beliefs, values, and actions (behaviors) that set someone apart from others by diminishing that person’s worth by creating a semblance of shame or disgrace.

stress and coping theory: theory indicating that life demands create stress to which individuals respond based on the skills that they have for responding to the demands (coping); substance use is one possible coping mechanism although it may ultimately compound stress through increased demands.


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Introduction to Substance Use Disorders by Patricia Stoddard Dare and Audrey Begun is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.