Drinking and Desired Self-Images: Path Models of Self-Image Goals, Coping Motives, Heavy-Episodic Drinking, and Alcohol Problems

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Coping motives for drinking initiate alcohol-related problems. Interpersonal goals, which powerfully influence affect, could provide a starting point for this relation. Here we tested effects of self-image goals (which aim to construct and defend desired self-views) and compassionate goals (which aim to support others) on heavy-episodic drinking and alcohol-related problems. Undergraduate drinkers (N=258) completed measures of self-image and compassionate goals in academics and friendships, coping and enhancement drinking motives, heavy-episodic drinking, and alcohol-related problems in a cross-sectional design. As predicted, self-image goals, but not compassionate goals, positively related to alcohol-related problems. Path models showed that self-image goals relate to coping motives, but not enhancement motives; coping motives then relate to heavy-episodic drinking, which in turn relate to alcohol-related problems. Self-image goals remained a significant predictor in the final model, which accounted for 34% of the variance in alcohol-related problems. These findings indicate that self-image goals contribute to alcohol-related problems in college students both independently and through coping motives. Interventions can center on reducing self-image goals and their attendant negative affect.

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