The role of denial and defensiveness in drug use among adolescents

William H. James, Heather S. Lonczak, David D. Moore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Denial is expressed in the form of defensive behavior. Denial and defensiveness among drug-using adolescents are major concerns and barriers to diagnosing drug problems. As a result, adolescents experiencing denial and defensiveness may be at special risk for additional problems associated with drug use behavior. This study reviews issues around denial and defensiveness in adolescents, type of defensive diagnoses, drugs used, and the question of grade level in school. As antecedents of drug use and associated problems, gender issues, school performance, changes in living situation, ethnicity, trouble with the law and society, family problems, dropping out of school, pregnancy and parenthood, and support group in-volvement are among the issues addressed. In a six-month tracking study of alternative school adolescents, drug use and defensiveness was assessed using the Adolescent Substance Battery (ASB; Moore, 1990). The types of drugs used included alcohol, marijuana, and hallucinogens. Defensiveness was highly associated with school credit deficiency and a high rate of legal trouble and discipline problems in defensive males. It is suggested that denial and defensiveness be considered risk factors for drug use and behavior problems. It is also recommended that defensiveness be explicitly ad-dressed in the diagnoses of females who become parents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-41
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Child and Adolescent Substance Abuse
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 14 1996
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • General Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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