Differential Reinforcement, Drinking, and 'Readiness to Change': An Application of Social Learning Theory

Geoffrey L. McIntyre, Mississippi State University

ABSTRACT
This paper applied social learning principles from Burgess and Akers (1966b) differential reinforcement theory to predict 'readiness to change' drinking attitudes and behaviors in a group of Mississippi DUI offenders. The independent variables were grouped into six categories representing positive formal social, positive informal social, and positive nonsocial reinforcement, and negative formal social, negative informal social, and negative nonsocial reinforcement. Comparatively using OLS regression, confirmatory factor analysis, and structural equation modeling, this research found that Mississippi DUI offenders who experience positive social and nonsocial reinforcement had less 'readiness to change' their current drinking and driving behaviors. Likewise, this study found that Mississippi DUI offenders who experience negative social and nonsocial reinforcement had more 'readiness to change' their current drinking and driving behaviors. Distinct contributions include: (1) Positive formal social reinforcers such as higher levels of education and sufficient income (assuming greater access and opportunity) reduce an individuals 'readiness to change' their drinking attitudes and behaviors. (2) Individuals who experience negative nonsocial reinforcement through drinking consequences associated with interference, guilt, and morning drinking were more likely to admit to being 'ready to change' their drinking attitudes and behaviors.

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Updated 05/20/2006