Research & Resources

Coping-Motivated Escalations in Adolescent Alcohol Problems Following Early Adversity

This study examined whether early stressful events precipitate drinking risk across adolescence and whether coping-motivated drinking mediates such relations. Participants were families of 387 adolescents recruited for a longitudinal study. Caregivers reported on adolescents’ experience of potentially stressful events, including conflict (i.e., disruption of harmonious family relations) and separation (i.e., decreased contact with important people) over the past year, when adolescents were approximately 14 years of age. Adolescents reported on their drinking motives, alcohol use, and alcohol problems annually from 18 to 20 years of age. Most adolescents reported having experienced at least one potentially stressful event in this time frame. Greater conflict events predicted a higher frequency of coping-motivated drinking, which in turn predicted increases in alcohol problems as adolescents began transitioning into young adulthood. Conflict, separation, and other stressful events were not significantly associated with changes in internal enhancement or external social motives, suggesting the specificity of coping as a motive. Findings suggest that the disruption of harmonious family relations in early adolescence is associated with elevated drinking risk for up to 6 years following the disruption. This risk appears to be driven by coping-motivated drinking.

This paper, “Coping-motivated escalations in adolescent alcohol problems following early adversity,” was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and published in the journal Psychology of addictive behaviors.

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