Can Social Behaviour Be Studied as a Science?
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Social psychology focuses on connecting thoughts and behavior to social influences. This field of psychology has been applied to various social phenomena, as it provides valuable insight into how the presence of others impacts people’s behavior. The present essay will focus on how social psychology was successfully used to explain the social phenomenon of drug abuse in youths.
Youth drug abuse is a persistent issue in many countries. As reported by Noori (2015), the rates of drug use among Afghan youths are growing, mainly due to social challenges such as unemployment, poverty, and low levels of education. In studying drug abuse, social psychology focuses on how social interactions and experiences influence the development, sustainment, prevention, and treatment of drug addiction. As a result of social psychology research in the area, two essential predictors of drug abuse in youths have been found. First of all, peer pressure has a crucial influence on drug abuse in youths (Russell, Trudeau, & Leland, 2015). According to Russell et al. (2015), “Youth who begin their substance use as young as age 8 are often pressured by peer culture to do so” (p. 1325). Another critical factor impacting drug abuse is drug addiction in the family. Children who come from substance-using families are more likely to develop an addiction (Russell et al., 2015). Thus, the application of social psychology to the phenomenon of youth drug abuse helps to explain how social factors impact the prevalence of and risk for drug abuse.
An emergent notion in social psychology is that individual and family educational attainment influences a person’s attitude towards drugs, and thus affects the probability of drug abuse. According to Olasupo and Idemudia (2017), there is a negative correlation between the levels of educational attainment and hazardous drug abuse. The relationship between family educational attainment and drug abuse is more complex. According to research by Kendler, Maes, Sundquist, Ohlsson, and Sundquist (2014), family socioeconomic status influences the probability of drug addiction. Families with high educational attainment also have a higher socioeconomic status, and thus family education has an indirect effect on drug addiction and abuse in youths.
Nevertheless, there are also some situations where social psychology may not be so successful at explaining a particular phenomenon. For example, religion is a socio-cultural phenomenon that influences people’s thoughts, attitudes, and behavior. Social psychology justifies the need for religion by stating that it is used to cope with uncertainty (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). However, the concept of religion is too complicated to be explained with existing scientific knowledge. According to Anderson (2015), there are a number of challenges in studying religion from a social psychology perspective, including the plurality of religions and the lack of proper ways to operationalize religious belief. Thus, while social psychology can successfully provide an explanation for some social phenomena, others require further research and may never be explained by social psychology alone.
Overall, social psychology has been used scientifically to successfully explain the phenomenon of youth drug abuse by discovering social predictors influencing it. For instance, factors such as family substance abuse, educational attainment, socioeconomic status, and peer pressure all influence drug abuse. However, there are also some complex social and cultural phenomena that cannot be elucidated by existing research. In particular, religion remains a rather unexplained concept in social psychology.
Anderson, J. R. (2015). The social psychology of religion: Using scientific methodologies to understand religion. In B. Mohan (ed.), Construction of social psychology (pp. 173-185). Lisboa, Portugal: InScience Press.
Kendler, K. S., Maes, H. H., Sundquist, K., Ohlsson, H., & Sundquist, J. (2014). Genetic and family and community environmental effects on drug abuse in adolescence: A Swedish national twin and sibling study. American Journal of Psychiatry, 171(2), 209-217.
Noori, L. (2015). Drug addiction: An ugly social phenomenon. The Kabul Times. Web.
Olasupo, M. O., & Idemudia, E. S. (2017). Religiosity, gender, and educational attainment as predictors of drug abuse in South Africa: A logistic regression approach. Bangladesh E-Journal of Sociology, 14(2), 64-73.
Russell, B. S., Trudeau, J. J., & Leland, A. J. (2015). Social influence on adolescent polysubstance use: The escalation to opioid use. Substance Use & Misuse, 50(10), 1325-1331.
Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied social psychology: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems (2nd ed.). London, England: Sage.