A psychosocial investigation of alcohol use in a social drinking context
Brooks, Jessica Jean
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It has been well established that personality characteristics, the presence of mental health symptomology, and other individual factors (e.g., expectancies, motives, and impulsivity) are associated with problematic drinking behavior. What is less clear, however, is the extent to which these factors are able to predict future drinking behavior or how social aspects of drinking contribute to the development and maintenance of drinking behaviors. These gaps are likely the result of disjointed theories of alcohol use that fail to capture the various psychological, social, and biological aspects of behavior at once. The current study is rooted in a biopsychosocial approach; however, only the psychosocial aspects were the focus. This investigation examined the following aims across two phases using a mixed-methods model, which allowed for exploration of behavioral data: (1) Identification of psychosocial variables linked to problematic alcohol use; (2) Examination of potential variables that influence decision to drink alcohol in naturalistic setting; and (3) Exploration of the influence of social interaction on individual’s choice to consume alcohol. The sample consisted of 51 community-based participants, ages 21-35 (M = 23.78), who ranged from social to problematic drinkers. Results revealed that individuals who endorsed significant levels of depression were more likely to choose alcohol in relation to their counterparts. Participants with MDD and APD were more likely to endorse problematic alcohol use, as well as those who endorsed internal (particularly enhancement) motives. Traits of impulsivity and social drinking motives did not significantly beverage choice in a social context, whereas individuals who engaged in social interaction during the mingling phase of the social drinking task were more likely to choose an alcoholic beverage when given the option, regardless of initial beverage preference. This suggests that social interaction influences not only drinking behavior (which has been found in previous studies), but also decisions to drink alcohol, which is an area that has been largely overlooked in the literature. Implications and areas of future research are discussed.