Changes in implicit alcohol attitudes across adolescence, and associations with emerging alcohol use: Testing the reciprocal determinism hypothesis


By bhadmin February 2, 2021

Implicit alcohol-related cognitions develop during adolescence and are thought to play an important role in the etiology of adolescent alcohol use. Rooted in reciprocal determinism, a developmental theory of alcohol-related cognitions, the current study sought to enhance our understanding of the development of automatic alcohol associations and their relationship with alcohol use. To provide a theoretically aligned test of reciprocal determinism, we used latent change score models to examine whether growth in automatic alcohol associations and alcohol use was related to each other (between-person effects) and whether each construct led to changes in the other over time (within-person effects). Adolescents (N = 378) completed 4 annual assessments, spanning early to middle adolescence. Automatic alcohol associations were assessed with a Single Category Implicit Association Test, and we used a quadruple processing tree model to extract a more “process pure” index of these associations. Alcohol use increased from early to middle adolescence, as negative automatic alcohol associations weakened over that same time period. Although there was no support for between-person associations, on the within-person level, weak negative automatic alcohol associations at Waves 2 and 3 were associated with increases in drinking at subsequent waves. Alcohol use did not significantly predict changes in automatic alcohol associations. Findings suggest the utility of distinguishing within- and between-person associations to understand the development of automatic alcohol associations and that automatic alcohol associations are prospectively associated with alcohol use and a potential target for intervention, one that becomes an increasingly salient influence on drinking as adolescence progresses.

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