Date of Award

2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Robert G. Laforge

Abstract

This dissertation examined predictors of change in college freshmen and sophomore cognitions of alcohol expectancies through secondary analyses of data collected in a randomized brief motivational interview (BMI) intervention for at-risk college drinkers (N=1067). Positive and negative alcohol expectancies were assessed at 6 time points over a 2 year period. Information on the selected predictors, which include demographic, peer and family influence, alcohol use and problem, and other drug use variables, was collected at baseline. Change in alcohol expectancies over time was evaluated using linear mixed effects regression and hierarchical modeling procedures. Results indicated that positive and negative alcohol expectancies developed differently, yet aligned with established trends in alcohol use within this population. Positive expectancies were observed to increase over the first 6 months of the study which coincides with a time period associated with elevated college drinking; entry into college or the start of the academic year. During this same period, negative expectancies decreased significantly. Further, in addition to randomly-assigned treatment condition, change in positive alcohol expectancies was moderated by race and alcohol-related problems. Non-Whites and students experiencing a low level of problems at baseline maintained healthier (lower levels) positive alcohol expectancies throughout the study. Treatment effects on change in positive alcohol expectancies were moderated by gender, class year and binge frequency. Across all levels of predictors, students that did not receive the intervention exhibited greater gains in positive alcohol expectancies. Positive effects did not extend beyond 1 year follow-up. Negative alcohol expectancies were moderated by treatment, gender, cigarette and marijuana use. Students that received the intervention exhibited greater reductions in negative alcohol expectancies from baseline to 6-month follow-up. Males and females exhibited similar reductions in negative expectancies over the course of the study with little evidence indicating that mean differences at each time point were stastistically significant. Finally, students that reported frequent use of cigarettes and marijuana at baseline maintainted the lowest levels of negative alcohol expectancies over time. The effects of treatment were not conditional on any predictors. These findings support the BMI employed in this study as an effective strategy for facilitating healthier cognitions related to alcohol use. Future studies examining the longitudinal mediation effects of alcohol expectancies on alcohol use by college students could extend current findings. Motivational interventions are only effective if they produce changes in the way people think about problem behavior that precipitates actual behavior change.

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