Personality predictors of substance abuse treatment processes

Frederick Muench, Fordham University


Matching persons to the underlying processes known to be predictive of outcome in substance abuse treatments, such as cognitive and behavioral coping and self-efficacy, can reveal important clues into who responds- and not respond- to these effective mechanisms of change. The personality domains of Five Factor Model (FFM) appear to be excellent matching variables because of their strong empirical support and stability. There is broad literature on the association between the domains of the FFM and coping and self-efficacy appraisals across populations, including in substance abusing samples. While studies have revealed that numerous relationships exist, the literature has not examined whether these relationships are stable over time. Moreover, there is an extremely limited literature on how these variables interact to contribute to outcome. The present study examined how the personality characteristics of the FFM predict cognitive and behavioral coping and self-efficacy appraisals at four time points over a 15-month period and the relationship of these variables with outcome. Participants were 252 inner city persons who enrolled in an outpatient substance abuse treatment study. Results reveal that while the relationship between personality and self-efficacy is fairly stable over-time, this is not true of coping. Because the relationship between personality and coping was strongest at baseline, it suggests that personality may influence coping under stress, but that treatment may weaken this association. Moreover, because the relationship between certain negative personality characteristics and certain process change scores were significant, it suggests that persons with more pathology (i.e. higher Neuroticism) are likely to change certain maladaptive coping responses and self-efficacy appraisals. Most importantly, the present study identified that when persons with more negative personality traits (i.e. higher Neuroticism or lower Extroversion) do not adopt these processes, they have significantly worse outcomes as compared to those scoring higher on these traits with the same levels of process use. Overall, results indicate that understanding variations in personality traits can aid in treatment planning within substance abusing populations by highlighting deficits and strengths in coping responses and self-efficacy appraisals, and by understanding what combinations of these variables contribute to differing outcomes.

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Recommended Citation

Muench, Frederick, "Personality predictors of substance abuse treatment processes" (2004). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3140902.