The Associations Among Prior Drinking Consequences, Subjective Evaluations, and Subsequent Alcohol Outcomes

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Abstract

Although the many positive and negative psychosocial consequences of alcohol use are well documented, evidence of the association between prior drinking consequences and subsequent alcohol-related outcomes is mixed. Social learning theory highlights that cognitive appraisals of prior drinking consequences play a crucial intermediate role in the relation of prior drinking consequences with subsequent alcohol-related outcomes. This prospective study was designed to test the mediating effects of subjective evaluations (i.e., perceived valence and controllability) in the association of prior drinking consequences with change in binge drinking and drinking consequences over time. Participants were 171 college students (69% female, 74% White, M age = 18.95 years, SD = 1.35) who completed 2 online surveys, with an average interval of 68 days (SD = 10.22) between assessments. Path analyses of the data did not support mediational effects of perceived valence or controllability of prior drinking consequences on subsequent alcohol-related outcomes. Specifically, greater frequency of negative consequences was associated with lower perceived valence and controllability, and greater frequency of positive consequences was associated with lower perceived controllability of the experienced consequences. However, perceptions of valence and controllability were not in turn associated with subsequent binge drinking and drinking consequences. Instead, greater frequency of positive consequences was directly associated with greater subsequent frequency of binge drinking. Findings highlight the importance of prior positive consequences in the escalation of binge drinking over a short period of time, although this relation may not be accounted for by perceptions of valence and controllability of the prior drinking consequences.

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