November 26, 2014 at 10:54 am

Howell Presents on Impact of Drinking Motives Among College Students

Ashley Howell presented “Fear of Positive Evaluation and Alcohol Use Problems Among College Students: The Unique Impact of Drinking Motives” at a symposium at the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies annual convention Nov. 20-23 in Philadelphia.

Howell is a Psychology graduate student at Ohio University. Dr. Justin Weeks, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Ohio University, was a co-author. The symposium was on “Social Anxiety and Substance Use Comorbidity: New and Extended Findings.”

There is strong empirical evidence that individuals with elevated social anxiety and social anxiety disorder are at risk for substance-use impairment. Thus, it is important to examine which facets of social anxiety contribute to substance use problem vulnerability. In order to gain understanding of this common comorbidity pattern, it is important for related studies to address: (a) the specific types of social fears that may contribute to maladaptive substance use; (b) the mechanisms of social processing that may underlie self-medication of social anxiety symptoms; (c) the nature by which substances are maladaptively used among socially anxious persons; and (d) how social anxiety may affect substance use problem remission, and vice versa. The current symposium aims to address these important facets of social anxiety-substance use relationships, by highlighting novel and up-to-date research findings from a variety of methodological approaches.

Commencing the symposium, Howell presented results from a dual-site study concerning distinct socio-evaluative fears (i.e., fear of positive evaluation [FPE] and fear of negative evaluation [FNE]) and how these fears relate to alcohol use problems, as well as alcohol-related coping motives. Findings were replicated across two sites, and converged to highlight FPE as an important variable which may link elevated social anxiety and alcohol use problems.

Fear of Positive Evaluation and Alcohol Use Problems Among College Students: The Unique Impact of Drinking Motives

There is strong empirical support that individuals with elevated social anxiety and social anxiety disorder (SAD) are at risk for alcohol-related impairment (e.g., for reviews see Buckner, Heimberg, Ecker, & Vinci, 2013; Morris, Stewart, & Ham, 2005). Thus, it is important to consider whether there is something about the multiple facets of social anxiety that contributes to alcohol problem vulnerability.

Although social anxiety has traditionally been conceptualized as a fear of negative evaluation (FNE), emerging data suggest that fear of positive evaluation (FPE) is also an important factor in pathological social anxiety (e.g., see Weeks & Howell, 2012). The aim of this dual-site study was to test whether FPE would be uniquely related to alcohol-related problems after accounting for the variance attributable to FNE as well as whether high-risk drinking motives would mediate this relationship. Participants included undergraduates from a Midwestern American university (n = 167, Mage = 19.09, 92.8% Caucasian, 70.7% female) and a Southern American university (n = 184, Mage = 20.40, 85.9% Caucasian, 82.1% female). The two sites significantly differed in age, sex, and drinking amount/frequency, ps ≤ .02.Thus, these variables were entered as covariates for all study analyses. Findings were consistent across sites and indicated that FPE significantly predicted alcohol use problems above and beyond FNE, both βs ≥ .19, ps ≤ .02, sr2s ≥ .03 (FNE: both βs ≤ .06, ps ≥ .46, sr2s ≤ .003). In addition, per multiple mediation analyses, coping motives for drinking had a unique indirect effect on the relationship between FPE and alcohol use problems, Site 1: 95% CIs [.0082, .0033]; Site 2: 95% CIs [.0049, .0031], above and beyond the non-significant effects of conformity, social, and enhancement motives. Furthermore, a series of contrast effect tests indicated that for both sites, the unique indirect effect of coping motives was significantly stronger than the non-significant effects of social or enhancement motives, but not significantly stronger than the non-significant effect of conformity motives. Lastly, a competing model (i.e., whether FPE mediated coping motives and drinking problems) was not supported for either site, Site 1: 95% CIs [-.0010, .0201]; Site 2: 95% CIs [-.0017, .0211] and thus ruled out. FPE may be an important cognitive vulnerability factor that, with additional clinical research, could serve as a meaningful therapeutic target in interventions designed to decrease drinking problems among SAD patients.




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