Parental representation and self-representation in the substance abuser

Dani Dubbioso, Pace University


At least 8.9 percent of the United States population has a substance abuse disorder. Lack of effectiveness in prevention and treatment of this disorder highlights the dire need for greater understanding of the etiology and characteristics of those addicted to drugs and alcohol. Psychoanalytic theory of addiction has much to offer but has not been subjected to empirical research. The present study explores the relationship between substance abuse and the way addicts represent themselves and their parents. Participants were 50 adult males from an inpatient drug and alcohol rehabilitation program and 38 adult males from an outpatient university clinic. Beth Hart's (1991) Inventory of Parental Representations Scale (IPR), Hart and Ward's (1992) Profile of Adolescent Depression and Individuation (PADI), and selected subscales of the Personality Assessment Inventory (PAI) were administered to participants to explore parental representation, self-representation, and alcohol and drug abuse, respectively. It was found that substance abusers showed a significant tendency to idealize their mothers and represented their fathers as thwarting individuation. In terms of self-representation, drug abusers feel alienated by peers, seek exciting and risky activities, and experience a kind of depression associated with the separation-individuation process. Preference for cocaine/crack-cocaine was associated with feeling alienated by peers, being self-destructive, and experiencing their fathers as intrusive and possessive. Limitations, implications, and directions for future research are discussed.

Subject Area

Clinical psychology

Recommended Citation

Dubbioso, Dani, "Parental representation and self-representation in the substance abuser" (2011). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI3483411.



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