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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A person-centered approach to understanding negative reinforcement drinking among first year college students

The current study used a person-centered approach (i.e. latent profile analysis) to identify distinct types of college student drinkers based on the predictions of motivational, social learning, and stress and coping theories of maladaptive drinking.

A large sample (N = 844; 53% female) of first-year undergraduates from two institutions, public and private, who reported consuming one or more drinks in the last three months completed measures of depressive and anxiety symptoms, positive alcohol-outcome expectancies, negative life events, social support, drinking motives, drinking level and drinking-related problems.

Latent profile analysis revealed a small subgroup of individuals (n = 81, 9%) who conformed to the anticipated high-risk profile; specifically, this group demonstrated high levels of negative affect, coping motives, drinks per week, and drinking-related problems. However, additional groups emerged that showed patterns inconsistent with the proposed vulnerability profile (e.g., high negative affect, positive expectancies, and negative life events, but relatively low drinking levels).

Findings from our person-centered approach showing the presence of groups both consistent and inconsistent with the predictions of motivational, social learning, and stress and coping theories highlight the need to identify and target certain college students for prevention and intervention of negative affect-related drinking.

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