Alcohol Expectancy Theory and the Identification of High-Risk Adolescents

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Four sets of findings support the theory that alcohol expectancy plays a causal-mediational role in teenage problem drinking: (a) Alcohol expectancies correlate with drinking behavior in adults and adolescents who range from low-level social drinkers to alcoholics; (b) expectancies predict the future onset of problem drinking in teenagers, and they have been measured in preadolescent children prior to any drinking experience; (c) expectancies mediate family influences on teen drinking, and they appear to operate in a vicious cycle--high expectancy leads to more drinking, which in turn leads to higher expectancy and still more drinking; and (d) experimental manipulation of expectancies can produce significant drinking reductions in heavy-drinking college students. We review the theory and this evidence and then present data from a 3-year longitudinal study that indicates that expectancy assessment may contribute to the identification of individual high-risk adolescents before drinking onset.

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Journal of Research on Adolescence, v. 4, issue 2, p. 229-248