Category: Addictive Behaviors
The self-medication model (Murdoch et al., 2010) posits that people susceptible to addiction discover that a substance relieves negative affect and thus becomes a coping method for avoiding undesirable states. One’s coping style, or general response pattern in reaction to challenges (Koolhaas et. al., 1999), could facilitate drinking behavior in the context of negative affect. While previous work has shown a connection between coping styles and substance abuse (Norman, 2013), the research is sparse in controlled laboratory studies examining how individuals with different coping styles behave in the context of a negative feedback stressor when alcohol is available. Further, some men believe alcohol consumption is an indicator on masculinity (DeVisser & Smith, 2007). When men who engage in dysfunctional coping receive negative feedback they may be inclined to seek in-group validation through drinking. Because alcohol consumption is not traditionally associated with femininity (Day et al., 2004), women may be less likely to use alcohol as a coping strategy for negative affect.
The present study examined whether gender and the degree to which one engages in dysfunctional coping styles moderates the effect of negative feedback on ad-lib alcohol consumption. Undergraduates (N = 103; 38.5% women; Mage = 23.56) were recruited for a study examining the relationship between personality and alcohol preferences. Participants completed assessments of coping styles (Brief COPE; Carver 1997) and decoy personality measures. Participants were then given randomly assigned positive or negative feedback about their personality, then completed a beer taste test paradigm (Hull & Young, 1983) consuming as much beer as desired during a 10-minute period. The amount of beer consumed in ml was used as a dependent measure of alcohol consumption.
A t-test indicated that those in the negative feedback condition drank more beer than those in the positive feedback condition. A 2 (male vs. female) x 2 (positive vs. negative feedback) x 2 (high vs. low dysfunctional coping) ANCOVA revealed a significant gender x dysfunctional coping group interaction, (F(1) = 5.65, p = .02), but feedback condition effects were not significant. Further probing revealed that men who reported high dysfunctional coping drank significantly more than men with low dysfunctional coping, (F(1) = 5.07, p = .028). The opposite non-significant trend was seen in women, showing that women who endorsed low dysfunctional coping drank more than women with high dysfunctional coping, (F(1) = 3.18, p = .083). This research provides evidence that dysfunctional coping styles could lead to increased drinking in men and that psychoeducation about coping skills may be useful in alcohol intervention programs.