FSU sociology professors John Taylor and Donald Lloyd, along with University of Miami professor emeritus George Warheit, found that low self-esteem and peer approval of drug use at age 11 predicted drug dependency at age 20. The researchers came to that conclusion after analyzing data from a multiethnic sample of 872 boys collected over a period of nine years. The study was published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Substance Abuse.
"Low self-esteem is kind of the spark plug for self-destructive behaviors, and drug use is one of these," Taylor said. "It's a fundamental need to have a good sense of self. Without it, people may become pathologically unhappy with themselves, and that can lead to some very serious problems."
Children with very low self-esteem, or what the researchers called self-derogation, were 1.6 times more likely to meet the criteria for drug dependence nine years later than other children. The researchers also found that early drug use is an important risk factor in drug dependence. The odds of drug dependence among early drug users were 17.6 times greater than among those who had not tried drugs by age 13. Put another way, 37 percent of those who reported using drugs at age 13 later met criteria for drug dependence compared to only 3 percent of those who had not tried drugs by 13.
The findings underscore the importance of identifying children with low self-esteem for prevention and early intervention efforts before they reach ages that are associated with initial experimentation with drugs, Taylor said.
"The fact that you can identify a group of people who are at risk for problematic behaviors is very im
Contact: John Taylor
Florida State University