An initial test of inconsistent nurturing as control theory: how partners of drug abusers assist their partners' sobriety


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Inconsistent nurturing as control (INC) theory asserts that because of competing goals of nurturing and controlling, partners of drug-dependent (or otherwise nonfunctioning) individuals will unintentionally encourage the very behavior they are trying to extinguish through inconsistent manifestations of reinforcement and punishment (Le Poire, 1992, 1995). The findings of this first test (N=52 couples) indicate that partners of alcoholics or otherwise drug-dependent individuals reinforce the substance-abusive behavior more before, and punish the substance-abusive behavior more after, they label the behavior problematic. More importantly, results also indicate that consistently punishing substance abusive behavior while simultaneously reinforcing alternative behavior predicts significantly lesser amounts of relapse. Thus, it is clear from these findings that partners of substance abusive individuals can have an impact on the substance abusive behavior of their partners. Finally, with regard to mental health outcomes, functional partners with partners who relapsed less were less depressed.