Document Type



Master of Arts in Psychology

Thesis Advisor: Dr. Bonita Cade


To explain a previously observed triad of substance abuse, adoption, and poor mental health adjustment in adoptees, the proposed study applies the Substance Use Motivation Model. This model would suggest that adoptees are motivated to use substances to negatively reinforce (remove or mitigate) depression and anxiety symptomology. Parent closeness is an established protective factor against negative mental health symptomology and substance use, suggesting closeness may influence the relationship between negative mental health symptomology and motivations to use substances for coping. To test this relationship, 100 adoptees were administered the Substance Use Motives Measure (SUMM), the Personal Health Questionaire-9 (Depression), the Personal Health Questionaire-7 (Anxiety), the Unidimensional Relationship Closeness Scale, and the Inclusion of the Other in Self measure. Much of the sample was of clinical significance on both mental health measures, corroborating previously observed high levels of depression and anxiety in this population. A stepwise regression model was built to determine the strongest predictors of substance use for coping in adoptees. Parent closeness significantly predicted substance use for coping, but in an unexpected way. Findings indicate that participants with higher closeness had higher scores on substance use for coping. Although unexpected, it is possible these results are exhibiting a unique pattern of social learning amongst adoptees and their adoptive parents. Further research is recommended to determine the extent of adoptive parent influence on decisions to use substances for coping with anxiety and depression symptomology.