Research & Resources

Problematic Social Media Use and Alcohol Expectancies in Early Adolescents

Alcohol expectancies are beliefs regarding positive effects (e.g., tension reduction) or negative effects (e.g., loss of motor coordination) of alcohol. Based on social learning theory, social media can influence alcohol expectancies in adolescents. In particular, problematic social media use—which can reflect elements of addiction, including mood modification, tolerance, withdrawal, conflict, and relapse—could be linked to alcohol expectancies. This study aimed to determine the associations between problematic social media use and alcohol expectancies in a national cohort of 10- to 14-year-old early adolescents in the U.S. Researchers analyzed cross-sectional data from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development study’s (ABCD Study®) Year 2 assessment (2018–2020). The sample was 48.7% female, racially and ethnically diverse, and had a mean age of 12.02 years old. Time spent on social media was not associated with positive or negative alcohol expectancies, but higher levels of problematic social media use were associated with higher positive and negative alcohol expectancy scores. Given the small effect sizes of the current study, future studies should further examine these relationships prospectively, as well as the mechanisms linking problematic social media use to alcohol expectancies and alcohol consumption. Because alcohol expectancies are modifiable and linked with alcohol initiation, they could be a target for future prevention efforts.

This paper, “Problematic social media use and alcohol expectancies in early adolescents,” was funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI); American Heart Association; and Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and published in the journal BMC public health.

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