Date of Award

Summer 8-2017

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

Committee Chair

Dr. Michael B. Madson

Committee Chair Department

Psychology

Committee Member 2

Dr. Bonnie C. Nicholson

Committee Member 2 Department

Psychology

Committee Member 3

Dr. Richard S. Mohn

Committee Member 3 Department

Educational Studies and Research

Committee Member 4

Dr. Virgil Zeigler-Hill

Committee Member 4 Department

Psychology

Abstract

The problematic drinking patterns of the college student population has elicited a campus-wide initiative to promote effective prevention and intervention efforts to reduce the range of associated academic, physical, and psychosocial consequences. Identifying those college students at greater risk for developing an alcohol use disorder informs student life personnel of ways to tailor efforts to ensure effective, healthy changes. Students with social anxiety pose a particular risk for developing problematic drinking patterns because of their heightened focus on how they are viewed by others in social situations coupled with drinking being viewed as a normative behavior. Because these students’ anxiety increases in social situations, utilizing a biopsychosocial framework that examines the role of drinking contexts in the relationship between social anxiety and problematic drinking patterns will shed light on effective prevention and intervention efforts for this subgroup of college students. Further, consideration of the cognitive and behavioral dimensions of social anxiety in relation to both problematic and safe drinking behaviors will provide a broader conceptualization of these students drinking experiences. The current study examined the mediating role of three drinking contexts on the relationship between three dimensions of social anxiety and six alcohol-related outcomes (three problematic and three safe drinking behaviors). Data were collected from 678 traditional-age college students from a mid-size university in the Southeastern region of the United States. As predicted, evaluation fears-related social anxiety predicted more alcohol consumption, hazardous drinking, and alcohol-related negative consequences, and less controlled consumption and serious harm reduction protective behavioral strategies. Further, negative coping drinking contexts partially mediated each of these relationships. Contrary to predictions, no significant direct or indirect effects were found between performance- and interaction-related social anxiety and alcohol-related outcomes. Further, no gender or racial differences were found in the predicted model. Overall, it appears that the cognitive vulnerabilities of students with social anxiety are more predictive of problematic drinking patterns. In line with the biopsychosocial model, it appears that these students are engaging in problematic drinking behaviors to cope with their symptoms. Important implications for prevention and intervention efforts, as well as directions for future research are outlined below.

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