Associations Between Executive Functioning, Affect-Regulation Drinking Motives, and Alcohol Use and Problems

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Abstract

Motivation to use alcohol to regulate positive and negative affect and deficits in cognitive control (i.e., executive functions [EFs]) have both been associated with increased alcohol involvement and alcohol-related consequences. Although dual-process models predict that affect-driven motivations and cognitive control should interact to determine alcohol involvement and alcohol-related consequences, this intersection has remained largely unexplored. The present study examined the extent to which effects of enhancement and coping drinking motives on alcohol use, heavy drinking, and alcohol-related consequences are moderated by individual differences in three theorized components of EF. We anticipated, in general, that drinking motives would more strongly predict alcohol use, heavy drinking, and alcohol-related consequences among individuals low versus high in cognitive control–EF. Participants (N = 801) completed a battery of nine EF tasks, as well as measures of drinking motives, alcohol use, heavy drinking, and alcohol-related negative consequences. A baseline structural model indicated that (a) both enhancement motives and coping motives predicted alcohol use and heavy drinking, (b) both enhancement and coping motives exerted their effects on alcohol-related consequences both directly and indirectly via alcohol use, and (c) shifting–specific abilities were modestly positively associated with heavy drinking. Most important for the aims of the study, latent variable interaction analyses failed to provide consistent evidence that better EF abilities attenuate the effects of drinking motives on alcohol use, heavy drinking, and alcohol-related consequences, as predicted.

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