The Effects of Stress, Alcohol Outcome Expectancies, Gender,

The Effects of Stress, Alcohol Outcome Expectancies, Gender, Coping Styles, and Family Alcoholism on Alcohol Consumption

Research Proposal by
Josh Robbins
November 26, 1996
Economics 143


One large component of American popular culture today is alcohol. A common stereotype for the effects of alcohol is that as a drug it acts as a stress antagonist. This theory was introduced by Conger (1956) as the Tension Reduction Hypothesis (TRW). It states that alcohol’s sedative action on the central nervous system serves to reduce tension, and because tension reduction is reinforcing, people drink to escape it (Marlatt & Rehsenow, 1980). Why do we drink, when do we drink, and how much do we drink? This research will determine the correlation between total weekly consumption of alcohol and perceived stress, alcohol outcome expectancies, gender, coping styles, and family history of alcoholism among undergraduate students. Do people drink more or less when stressed? Do alcohol outcome expectancies lead to higher or lower consumption? Is a history of family alcoholism positively or negatively correlated to personal consumption? Do the tested variables play mediating or moderating roles in stress-related drinking? This research will determine the answers to these questions, and determine the strength of the correlations, if any.


The main question that this statistical model will answer is as follows: Is there any correlation between drinking and gender, alcohol expectancies, family alcoholism, stress, and coping styles?
It has been demonstrated that significant differences exist between the drinking patterns of men and women (Hilton, 1988). In a survey of US drinking habits conducted in 1988 by the US National Center for Health Statistics, Dawson and Archer (1992) showed that there are three areas illustrating gender differences. The first is the actual number of male and female drinkers. The study showed that 64% of men versus 41% of women were current drinkers. Second, men were more likely to consume alcohol on a daily basis (17.5 grams of ethanol per day versus 8.9 grams for women). Third, men were more likely to be classified as heavy drinkers. In fact, when the classification measure of a "heavy drinker" was changed from five drinks or more per day to nine drinks or more per day the ration of male to female heavy drinkers increased by a factor of 3.
Are the theories mentioned above about stress-induced drinking accurate? There have been studies which disprove the Tension Reduction Hypothesis. For instance, in a study by Conway, Vickers, Ward, and Rahe in 1981 it was found that "the consumption of alcohol among Navy officers during periods of high job demands was actually lower than the consumption during low-demand periods." Additionally, some drinkers have been known to consider alcohol as a tension generator rather than a tension reducer.
Alcohol Expectancies
The expectations of what effects alcohol consumption may have play an important role in drinking habits. These expectancies first develop in childhood as indirect learning experiences (media, family modeling, peer influence) and, as a result of increased direct experiences with the pharmacological effects of alcohol, become more refined (Christiansen, Goldman, & Inn, 1982). Do the expectancies that people hold about alcohol decently predict consumption? Some people believe that alcohol consumption will increase sexual and aggressive behavior, or otherwise enhance social experiences. Many people subscribe to the view that alcohol acts as "liquid courage".


The dependent variable for this research will be Weekly Alcohol Consumption (WEEK), measured by the total number of drinks consumed in 1 week. A standard drink is defined as a 12-ounce bottle/can of beer, 1.5 ounce shot of liquor, or a 5 ounce glass of wine. The predictor variables would include the dummy variable GENDER, where D1=1 for a male, STRESS, alcoholic expectancies (EXPECT), family alcoholism (FAMILY), and difference coping styles (COPE).
The complete list of possible measurable variables are: Perceived Stress, Family History of Alcoholism, Problem-Focused Coping, Emotion-Focused Coping, Less Useful Coping, and Drinking to Cope. For alcohol expectancy outcomes, the following variables would be useful: Sociability, Tension Reduction, Liquid Courage, Sexuality, Cognitive & Behavioral Impairment, Risk & Aggression, and Self Perception.
The data for this research project will be collected through surveys and questionnaires given to undergraduate students at one university, but not limited to one department. An attempt should be made to split the test group approximately equal in