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Informing America’s Policy on Illegal Drugs: What We Don’t Know Keeps Hurting Us
because they are not constrained by emotional ties to loved ones, commitments to conventional goals, or strong normative beliefs about what is right and wrong (Hirschi, 1969). Individuals who are strongly bonded to society are less likely to engage in risky behaviors. Individual decisions about their own use will depend on the strength of the social pressure to use relative to their perceptions of what is at stake if they do use, as well as their perceptions of what is normative behavior.
There is a growing body of evidence on processes of interplay between individual characteristics and social or contextual circumstances. This evidence has taken the field beyond overly simplistic “nature versus nurture” debates, in which an individual’s genes have been advanced as the ultimate causes of drug dependence from one side and an individual’s social circumstances have been advanced as the ultimate cause of drug dependence from the other side. Especially in research on the causal processes that lead toward drug dependence, there is compelling reason to recast this argument. In place of “nature versus nurture” is a conceptual model of “nature transacting with nurture” (e.g., see Collins et al., 2000). The transactions involve a dynamic interplay between the individual and the environment, social and otherwise.
For example, with respect to certain facets of early temperament and personality, such as extroversion and openness to experience (sometimes called novelty seeking), there is evidence of inheritance from one generation to the next, a set of heritability estimates from studies of monozygotic and dizygotic twins, and evidence on the importance of experiences after conception (e.g., see Rose et al., 1988; Eaves et al., 1999; True et al., 1999). Regarded as individual-level characteristics, these facets of temperament and personality help to determine an individual’s repertoire of behavior, including social activities with peers and illegal drug use (e.g., see Kosten et al., 1994; True et al,. 1999; Kendler and Prescott, 1998a, 1998b). In turn, outgoing behavior and social activities may shape whether and when an individual participates in higher-risk social groups that ultimately may include opportunities to try illegal drugs such as cocaine. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to assume that there is no reciprocal transaction, and there is evidence that the social interactions and circumstances of these environments also shape the individual’s future behavior and activities, including the probability and frequency of future entry into higher-risk social groups, membership in these social groups, and socialization into the social roles of the groups. Hence, the individual-level characteristics and behaviors are involved in selection of environmental circumstances, and the environmental circumstances, in turn, shape the future individual-level characteristics and behaviors.
A similar theme of dynamic interplay and transaction has emerged in recent research on parental influences on adolescent and young adult