The social construction of co-dependency in the treatment of substance abuse

J Subst Abuse Treat. 1997 Sep-Oct;14(5):473-9. doi: 10.1016/s0740-5472(97)00121-9.


Co-dependency has become an important concept in the treatment of substance abuse, yet there is still disagreement about what it means. The meaning of co-dependency is important because it shapes public perceptions of helping behavior and affects the treatment that persons with addictions receive. However, some observers have criticized co-dependency, arguing that the concept is gender-biased, denigrates women, and blames innocent victims of substance abuse. This investigation examined the social construction of co-dependency in the treatment of substance abuse by asking substance-abuse counselors three questions: (a) what do they mean by co-dependency, (b) to what extent does co-dependency mean women, and (c) to what extent do they agree. The findings suggest that co-dependency is a reliable social construction that substance-abuse counselors use to describe persons of both genders.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Codependency, Psychological*
  • Counseling*
  • Female
  • Feminism
  • Humans
  • Models, Psychological
  • Prejudice
  • Psychology, Social
  • Social Perception
  • Stereotyping
  • Substance Abuse Treatment Centers
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Terminology as Topic
  • Women