A Cluster-Analytic Approach to Determining Drinking Motives and Personality Typologies: Trauma Group Differences and Respective Relations to PTSD and Problematic Alcohol Use

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Veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are at elevated risk for alcohol use problems, a relationship commonly explained by using alcohol to cope with unpleasant symptoms of PTSD. However, patterns of alcohol use motives, more broadly, have not been well characterized in veteran samples, nor have they been evaluated in the context of other relevant factors, such as normative personality traits. The aims of the present study were to identify empirically derived drinking motive and personality typologies to determine whether these typologies differ as a function of PTSD status (i.e., nontrauma control, trauma exposed−no PTSD, and PTSD) and to evaluate associations between typology and PTSD symptom severity and alcohol consumption, respectively. Cluster analyses identified a 4-cluster solution. Results indicated that these typologies differed significantly according to trauma group as well as across levels of PTSD symptom severity and alcohol use. Specifically, Cluster 4 represented individuals at highest risk for both PTSD symptom severity and alcohol use compared to all the other typologies; Cluster 1 demonstrated lowest risk for PTSD symptom severity and alcohol use compared to all other typologies; and although Clusters 2 and 3 did not differ according to PTSD symptom severity, individuals in Cluster 2 had significantly higher alcohol use. These results represent certain “at risk” versus “protective” typologies that may facilitate the identification of individuals at risk for comorbid PTSD and problematic alcohol use.

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