Albert Bandura’s Social Learning Theory aligns with many other behaviorist approaches to learning that imply both classical and operant conditioning. Although, the theorist added two critical points to the already existing models, suggesting that mediating processes take place between stimuli and responses as well as the fact that behaviors of any nature are learned from the environment with the help of observational learning (Fryling, Johnston, & Hayes, 2011).
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Observational learning occurs as children look at various behaviors of people surrounding them and later reenact these behaviors themselves. Therefore, individuals surrounding children act as models whose actions are being encoded and imitated. Importantly, positive behaviors reenacted by children that are seen as socially acceptable are usually rewarded, which encourages them to repeat the behaviors on a long-term basis.
Another vital point pertinent to Bandura’s theory is that replication of behaviors based on observed models does not occur automatically. Instead, there is some thought prior to imitation, which denotes the process of mediation that takes place between observing the behavior and replicating it. The theory can be applied to the management of various psychosocial issues that are based on the replication of harmful behaviors observed from the environment.
As applied to the Social Learning Theory, it is essential to discuss such an important psychosocial problem as youth substance abuse. According to the findings of the US Department of Health and Human Services (2017), in 2017, 13% of high school students reporting using electronic vapor products, 9% of students reported smoking a cigarette at least once a day, while 41% of students reported trying to quit using tobacco. In terms of alcohol-related issues, 30% of respondents mentioned that they had at least one alcoholic drink at least once a day over a 30-day period before the survey (US Department of Health and Human Services, 2017).
44% of high school students mentioned obtaining alcohol from someone else, which presents a significant behavioral challenge (US Department of Health and Human Services, 2017). The abuse of substances by young people is a significant psychosocial issue because its occurrence depends on learned behaviors as well as peer pressure, which is another important aspect to consider when discussing the Social Learning Theory (Whitesell, Bachard, Peel, & Brown, 2013). The problem should be addressed because of its influence on the increased risks of sexually transmitted diseases, vehicular fatalities, juvenile delinquency, and mental and physical health challenges.
The Social Learning Theory can be used to resolve the complications associated with youth in substance abuse by determining the social risk factors that encourage the youth to replicate harmful behaviors. As mentioned by Whitesell et al. (2013), peer drug use, deviant beliefs, and risky time with friends are all pre-determinants of substance abuse among young people. However, parent behavior imitation should also be considered as the use of marijuana by adults in the family increases the likelihood of joint smoking among the youth (Whitesell et al., 2013).
The modeling of positive behaviors that promote healthy lifestyle choices is expected to reduce the occurrence of substance abuse among youth. Family-based programs, as well as peer education, are interventions that place Social Learning Theory in the center of efforts targeted at abuse prevention (Kumpfer, 2014). Such interventions strengthen connections between parents and their children and encourage positive role modeling to reduce and completely eliminate substance use among young people.
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Fryling, M. J., Johnston, C., & Hayes, L. J. (2011). Understanding observational learning: An interbehavioral approach. The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, 27(1), 191-203. Web.
Kumpfer K. L. (2014). Family-based interventions for the prevention of substance abuse and other impulse control disorders in girls. ISRN Addiction, 2014, 308789. Web.
US Department of Health and Human Services. (2017). United States adolescent substance abuse facts. Web.
Whitesell, M., Bachand, A., Peel, J., & Brown, M. (2013). Familial, social, and individual factors contributing to risk for adolescent substance use. Journal of Addiction, 2013, 579310. Web.