Research & Resources

Do Coping Motives and Perceived Impaired Control Mediate the Indirect Links from Childhood Trauma Facets to Alcohol-Related Problems?

This study examined how childhood trauma might indirectly increase impaired control (IC) over alcohol (i.e., drinking beyond one’s own intentions) and thereby increase alcohol use and problems through the employment of coping motives. The study participants were 612 university students. The study revealed that male participants were less likely than female participants to have been emotionally abused as a child and that they used greater amounts of alcohol than female participants. Childhood experiences of physical neglect were directly linked to increases in IC and alcohol use. Childhood experiences of emotional and sexual abuse were directly linked to increased coping motives and indirectly linked to increases in alcohol use and its related problems through increased coping motives and IC. Consistent with behavioral economics theory—which maintains that individuals previously deprived of resources (i.e., physically neglected) consume more reinforcing substances when they are available than others—this study demonstrated a direct link between physical neglect and IC. The researchers also found partial support for the self-medication hypothesis, which suggests that individuals drink to alleviate undesirable affective states. Experiences of childhood emotional and sexual abuse trauma indirectly contributed to alcohol use and its related problems via the mediating mechanisms of more coping motives and IC. These findings suggest that coping motives could be a therapeutic target for intervention among those with childhood experiences of sexual or emotional abuse.

This paper, “Do coping motives and perceived impaired control mediate the indirect links from childhood trauma facets to alcohol-related problems?,” was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and published in the journal Behavioral Sciences.

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