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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Do Changes in Selfishness Explain 12-Step Benefit? A Prospective Lagged Analysis

12-Step attendance is associated with increased abstinence. A strong claim made in 12-step literature is that alcoholics are pathologically selfish and that working the 12 steps reduces this selfishness, which, in turn, leads to sustained alcohol abstinence. 

This study tested this assumption by investigating the linkages between 12-step attendance, pathological narcissism, and drinking.

One hundred thirty early Alcohol Anonymous (AA) affiliates with limited AA and treatment histories were recruited from treatment and community-based AA. A majority of the sample was alcohol dependent and reported illicit drug use before recruitment. Participants were interviewed at intake and at 3, 6, and 9 months. A majority of participants attended AA meetings throughout follow-up and such attendance predicted increased abstinence and reduced drinking intensity. 

12-Step affiliates were significantly higher on pathological narcissism (PN) relative to general population samples and their PN remained elevated. Contrary to predictions, PN was unrelated to 12-step meeting attendance and did not predict later abstinence or drinking intensity. 

The findings did not support the hypothesis that reductions in PN explain 12-step benefit. An alternative function for the emphasis placed on pathological selfishness in 12-step programs is discussed and a recommendation is made to use unobtrusive measures of selfishness in future research.

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