Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name



Educational Psychology

First Advisor

Stephen Hillman, Ph.D.


Considerable research has been devoted to studying the causes and correlates of drug use and abuse among adolescents. This literature has revealed that occasional use signifies developmentally appropriate experimentation, while the extreme behaviors of abuse and abstention are signs of underlying emotional problems. Abstention has not been directly researched. Information on abstention has been a byproduct of the use/abuse literature. Personality and family relationship correlates of drug abstention were investigated in a sample of 292 seniors from a Midwestern, middle-class suburban high school. Using the level of substance involvement as a predictor of adjustment, abstainers, user/experimenters, and abusers were compared on personality and family relationship variables. Levels of adjustment were evaluated in terms of the personality characteristics of novelty-seeking, harm avoidance, and reward dependence and the level of relationship problems with the father independent of the adolescent/mother relationship. Additional information was gathered on demographic and background factors. The primary hypothesis that abstention is related to a personality profile high in reward dependence and harm avoidance, and low in novelty seeking behaviors was partially supported. A strong relationship between abstention and a personality low in novelty seeking behaviors was found. The secondary hypothesis that abstention is related to low levels of relationship problems with the father independent of the adolescent/maternal relationship was not supported. The results showed that differences in perceived conflict with parents are not a significant influence on substance abuse level. A strong relationship between substance use level and grade point average and religiosity was found. Abstainers achieved significantly higher grade point averages than user/experimenters and abusers. Abstainers reported attending religious activities or services significantly more frequently than the other groups, and abstainers were significantly more likely to consider religion extremely important in their lives than user/experimenters and abusers. Implications for incorporating these findings into programs aimed at preventing drug abuse were presented.