Alcohol Outcome Expectancies Mediate the Relationship Between Social Anxiety and Alcohol Drinking in University Students: The Role of Gender
SourceCognitive Therapy and Research
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College alcohol drinking is a public health concern worldwide. A line of research indicates that higher social anxiety is associated with more severe college drinking. However, other studies reveal a protective role of social anxiety against alcohol drinking in college students. Attempting to reconcile contradictory findings, we examined the hypothesis that there are multiple antagonistic pathways that could explain the social anxiety-college drinking relationship. In addition, there may be individual difference variables that moderate these processes. Furthermore, it was expected that the processes could vary as a function of the alcohol drinking outcomes examined. Expectancy theory emphasizes the role of alcohol outcome expectancies in alcohol drinking. Thus, in the present study we tested whether global positive and negative alcohol outcome expectancies partially mediate the relationship between social anxiety, alcohol consumption, and alcohol-related problems in a sample of 245 university students. We also examined the moderating role of gender in these mediating processes. Results revealed parallel but oppositional processes. Higher social anxiety was associated with heavier alcohol drinking and more serious alcohol-related problems via stronger positive alcohol outcome expectancies. However, the mediating role of positive alcohol outcome expectancies varied as a function of gender. It appears that in female students the mediating effect of positive alcohol outcome expectancies was stronger than in male students. On the other hand, higher social anxiety had a protective role against alcohol consumption but not against alcohol-related problems via stronger negative alcohol outcome expectancies. Finally, there was an inverse direct relationship between social anxiety and alcohol consumption.