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Megan E. Patrick photo

Developmental Models of High-Risk Alcohol Use & Social Roles in Young Adulthood

a PSC Research Project

Investigators:   Megan E. Patrick, John E. Schulenberg

Across the life course, alcohol use reaches its peak for most individuals during young adulthood (YA), and use at this time is associated with many acute negative consequences and potential longer-term effects. During this time, changes in alcohol use and heavy drinking have been found to be a function of changes in social roles and contexts. However, little is known about how individuals move into and out of these roles in real time, what types and characteristics of role transitions (e.g., role-related goal importance, role commitment, satisfaction, stress, and overload) are most associated with immediate and long-term changes in alcohol use, as well as larger changes in drinking trajectories and functioning, and who may be most at risk for alcohol-related consequences during these transitions. This lack of scientific knowledge is due, in part, to gaps in theory and available data to support finer-grained analyses to corroborate existing theories. The proposed research focuses on alcohol use during the transition to adulthood and will explore two developmental models that have been posited to explain why alcohol use increases during young adulthood (YA, roughly ages 18-25): a Transitions Catalyst/Impediment model and a coping-focused Transitions Overload model of simultaneous developmental role transitions. The long-term objectives of the proposed research are to extend prior research by taking a finer-grained approach with monthly assessments to 1) understand the twists and turns in drinking as they happen as a function of changes in roles and contexts in real time, how different characteristics of social roles influence these relationships, and whom may be most at risk (i.e., moderators of these associations) and 2) test and extend current developmental models of health risks. Understanding how YAs navigate different and simultaneous role transitions and identifying when and for whom risk for use and consequences is at its peak can inform interventions by identifying potential mechanisms and optimal timing.

Funding Period: 02/15/2014 to 01/31/2018

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