Is Shame a Proximal Trigger for Drinking? A Daily Process Study With a Community Sample

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Between-subjects studies show that people with higher levels of shame tend to experience more negative drinking-related consequences than people with lower levels of shame. However, within-subjects studies of the association between daily fluctuations in shame and subsequent drinking have yielded mixed findings. This study aimed to resolve these inconsistencies by examining the association between daily fluctuations in shame, between-subjects differences in shame, and subsequent evening alcohol consumption in a sample of 70 community-dwelling drinkers. In addition, we examined whether the previous night’s drinking predicted shame the next day based on the theory that shame may operate in a cyclical fashion in some people to maintain problematic drinking patterns. Multilevel model analyses showed a cross-level interaction in which individuals’ average levels of ashamed mood moderated the effect of daily fluctuations in shame on solitary drinking. In contrast, previous day’s drinking was only weakly related to shame the next day. This study contributes to existing literature by refining models of negative mood-related drinking and further elucidating the patterns by which shame serves as a trigger for drinking, particularly among high shame individuals. The authors interpret results in terms of self-control theory and demonstrate the importance of disaggregating between- and within-subjects variance when examining longitudinal data.

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