Influence of Instability on Substance Use Prevalence in Emerging Adult Active Duty Military Members and Veterans

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Topaz Lavi


Emerging Adults (EA) are found to have the highest rates of substance use across the lifespan. Past research suggests emerging adults who are active duty members, as well as veterans, have an increased likelihood of misusing substances due to the feeling of instability. The Emerging Adulthood Theory (EAT) suggests that individuals ages 18-29 experience five different stages of development known as dimensions: optimism, self-focus, instability, identity exploration, and the feeling of being in between a child and an adult (Arnett, 2000). This paper will discuss instability, one out of the five dimensions of the Emerging Adulthood Theory in relation to military members and how their experiences in the military may influence their substance use. The relationship was found through semi-structured interviews and coding following thematic analysis. These results can also be found in many of the interviews of emerging adult military members conducted for our study. This study also has implications for social work, as it influences social work practice to be more mindful of the differences between emerging adult military members and their civilian counterparts. Without this understanding, it may make it more difficult for social workers to stray away from unconscious biases while working with this population. Unconscious biases can arise due to a lack of cultural competency and understanding of the unique experiences active duty members and veterans face, which can therefore negatively impact the quality of care and support this population may receive from social workers.

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