10 - Self-efficacy and addictive behavior  pp. 289-316

Self-efficacy and addictive behavior

By G. Alan Marlatt, John S. Baer and Lori A. Quigley

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Perceived self-efficacy plays a unique role in the addictive behaviors field. Such beliefs influence both the initial development of addictive habits and the behavior change process involving the cessation of such habits and maintenance of abstinence. In both the acquisition and modification of smoking, for example, individuals are faced with a choice between starting to smoke or not (initiation), and for smokers, between attempting to quit or not. Most of the research reviewed in this chapter deals with the role of perceived self-efficacy in preventing the onset of addictive behavior (e.g., resistance self-efficacy) or in facilitating the quitting process (e.g., self-efficacy for coping with relapse crises). It is important to note, however, that self-efficacy can cut both ways at the choice point: In addition to resistance self-efficacy, self-efficacy is also involved in attempts to initiate an addictive habit, such as becoming a smoker.

As an illustration of this latter point, the senior author recalls his experience of taking up smoking at the age of 14 – a habit he unfortunately maintained for thirty years afterward. On vacation with his family in Hawaii, he met a 16-year-old boy who smoked. Wanting to impress his older friend, he lied and said that he too was a smoker. “Prove it!” he was told by the older boy, who offered him his first cigarette, a Cool menthol.