Personality and motivational correlates of alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems among excessive drinking university students

Personality and motivational correlates of alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems among excessive drinking university students

Addictive Behaviors 36 (2011) 87–94 Contents lists available at ScienceDirect Addictive Behaviors Personality and motivational correlates of alcoho...

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Addictive Behaviors 36 (2011) 87–94

Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

Addictive Behaviors

Personality and motivational correlates of alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems among excessive drinking university students Steven G. Hosier ⁎, W. Miles Cox Bangor University, United Kingdom

a r t i c l e

i n f o

Keywords: University students Alcohol-related problems Motivational structure Personality characteristics

a b s t r a c t Objectives: The study had three objectives: (1) to assess relationships between personality characteristics and alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems among university students who drink alcohol excessively; (2) to assess relationships between motivational structure and alcohol consumption and problems among students who consume excessive amounts of alcohol; and (3) to assess how personality characteristics and motivational structure are related to each other and how the two are jointly related to alcohol consumption and problems. Design: Personality, motivational structure, alcohol use, and alcohol-related problems were assessed among 111 undergraduate students. Findings: Mediation analyses showed that both maladaptive motivational structure and novelty seeking predicted participants' alcohol-related problems beyond that predicted by alcohol consumption. Conclusion: Future research should aim to reduce alcohol-related negative consequences by targeting students with a maladaptive motivational structure, while taking into account the role of personality characteristics. Screening and intervention programmes would benefit from addressing novelty seeking and maladaptive motivation. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Excessive alcohol consumption has a variety of consequences, including a well-documented range of physical, psychological, and social problems (Schall, Kemeny, & Maltzman, 1992). No single etiological process has been identified to explain the sequence of events through which some individuals' initiation of alcohol use culminates in alcohol dependence (La Grange, Jones, Erb, & Reyes, 1995). Rather, there are complex biopsychosocial determinants (Cox, & Klinger, 1988; in press-a,b,c). Much research has aimed to identify the role that individual factors, or clusters of factors, play in the initiation of alcohol use and the development of alcohol-related problems. The way in which various risk factors combine with one another is important to examine; a given individual's vulnerability to developing alcohol-related problems might be increased if various other factors or combinations of factors are also present. In addition, the onset of alcohol use might be influenced by factors other than those that maintain the use or which affect the occurrence of problems (Dimeff, Baer, Kivlahan, & Marlatt, 1999). Accordingly, the present study of excessive drinking among university students had three purposes: to assess the relationship between personality characteristics and alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems; to assess the relationship between motivational structure and alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems; to assess how ⁎ Corresponding author. School of Psychology, Bangor University, Brigantia Building, Penrallt, Bangor, Gwynedd, LL57 2AS, United Kingdom. Tel.: + 44 1248 388450. E-mail address: [email protected] (S.G. Hosier). 0306-4603/$ – see front matter © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.addbeh.2010.08.029

personality characteristics and motivational structure are related to each other and how the two variables are jointly related to alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems. 1. Personality characteristics Although no evidence has been found to support the concept of a unique alcoholic personality, a variety of different research methods has established a set of personality characteristics that both predate the onset of alcohol problems and differentiate alcoholics from nonalcoholics (Cox, Yeates, Gilligan, & Hosier, 2001). Moreover, previous research has identified nonconformity, independence, impulsivity, hyperactivity, and antisocial behaviour as personality characteristics that predict future alcohol-related problems (Cox, 1987). A prominent theoretical model of alcohol abuse is Cloninger (1987b) neurobiological learning model. It proposes that three distinct dimensions of personality, Novelty Seeking (NS), Harm Avoidance (HA), and Reward Dependence (RD) underlie an individual's risk of developing alcohol abuse and dependence. The model links personality with heritable differences in neurochemical factors from which a typology of alcoholics was developed using the Tridimensional Personality Questionnaire (TPQ; Cloninger, Przybeck, & Svrakic, 1991). According to the model, Type II alcoholism is characterised by early onset of alcohol-related problems, antisocial behaviour, and a continuous pattern of drinking. It is defined as


S.G. Hosier, W.M. Cox / Addictive Behaviors 36 (2011) 87–94

having high scores on NS (described as impulsive, exploratory, excitable, disorderly, and distractible) and low scores on both HA (confident, relaxed, optimistic, uninhibited, carefree, and energetic) and RD (socially detached, emotionally cool, practical, tough-minded, and independently self-willed). Type I alcoholism, on the other hand, is defined as having low scores on NS (described as rigid, reflective, loyal, orderly, and attentive to details) and high scores on HA (cautious, apprehensive, pessimistic, inhibited, and shy) and RD (eager to help others, emotionally dependent, warmly sympathetic, sentimental, sensitive to social cues, and persistent), and it is characterised by having a later onset of alcohol-related problems and loss-of-control and binge drinking. Cloninger (1987a;1987b) tridimensional theory of personality has received much research attention that has produced mixed results, possibly due to inconsistencies in the variables studied (see Cox et al., 2001). However, relatively few studies have examined tridimensional personality factors of university students. In one study, Nixon, and Parsons (1989) tested the validity of the TPQ. They showed that the three dimensions of the TPQ were largely independent of one another, except for a negative relationship between HA and NS among male students. In addition, female students scored higher than males on HA. Sher, Walitzer, Wood, and Brent (1991) examined personality differences among university students who were either at high- or low-risk for alcoholism, as defined by a history of paternal alcoholism. Students who had a history of paternal alcoholism scored higher on NS and lower on RD than students without such a history, and female students scored higher than males on HA and RD, regardless of their risk status. From these results, Sher et al. (1991) concluded that personality differences were apparent in persons at varying degrees of risk for alcohol problems, consistent with previous theory (Cloninger, 1987a). Although, as Howard, Kivlahan, and Walker (1997) stated, the utility of the TPQ for prevention or treatment has not been well established, overall results suggest that use of the instrument can contribute to the identification of potential problem drinking among students. In a prospective study of the TPQ dimensions, Sher, Bartholow, and Wood (2000) found that university students scoring high on NS were more likely than those scoring low to later receive a diagnosis of a substance-use disorder. It was concluded that NS is an important risk factor, which placed students at risk for developing a substance-use disorder in later life. Therefore, the present study assessed the role of NS in alcohol use and alcohol-related problems and tested differences between female and male students. Another aspect of personality that has received research attention for its relationship to alcohol use is locus of control (LOC; Rotter, 1966). In Rotter's social learning theory of personality, locus of control refers to a generalised expectancy people hold regarding the extent to which chance governs the outcome of their actions. Individuals who attribute success and failure to their own actions and abilities are described as having an internal locus of control, whereas individuals with an external locus of control attribute outcomes to fate, luck, or outside agents. The relationship between locus of control and problematic alcohol use has been the focus of a variety of studies. Donovan, and O'Leary (1978) used a locus of control measure that was specific to alcohol use (Drinking Related Internal–External Locus of Control Scale, DRIE; Keyson, & Janda, 1972), and found that alcohol-dependent individuals, in comparison to nondependent drinkers, had a more external locus of control which, in turn, was related to greater physical and psychosocial impairment as a result of drinking. Other studies have found that individuals became more internal during the course of treatment, that external individuals were more likely to leave treatment before completion (Jones, 1985; Prasadarao, & Mishra, 1992), and that internal locus of control was related to longer periods of sobriety (Mariano, Donovan, Walker, Mariano, & Walker, 1989; Strom, & Barone, 1993). In addition, Koski-Jannes (1994) showed that, following treatment, internal individuals were less likely to relapse, drank less and for a shorter period of time if they did relapse, and had

a better outcome than external individuals. Further research found that high externality in adolescence predicted heavy drinking in young adulthood (Steele, Forehand, Armistead, & Brody, 1995), and that high externality was a risk factor for alcohol dependence among women (Poikolainen, 2001). Few studies have investigated the influence of generalised locus of control on drinking patterns among students, but two studies (Cox, & Baker, 1982a;1982b) have done so. In the first study, students completed the Internal–External Locus of Control Scale (I–E LOC; Rotter, 1966) and a measure of problem drinking, the Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test (MAST; Selzer, 1971). It was found that female students were more external than male students, but that increased externality was related to problem drinking only among males. The second study found that wine consumption was related to internal locus of control among male students but not among female students. Cox, and Baker (1982a;1982b) concluded that different psychological processes underlie heavy drinking and alcohol-related problems, and they pointed out the importance of gender differences in these relationships. Clearly, research on the relationship between locus of control and alcohol use has produced consistent results with alcohol-dependent individuals, but the same cannot be said of the few studies that focused on university students. It appears that there is a strong link between externality and alcohol dependence, and that patients' locus of control changes during the course of treatment. However, from the extant research, it cannot be determined whether locus of control is a precursor of alcohol problems or whether it is affected by chronic problematic drinking. The present study assessed relationships between personality and alcohol use and alcohol-related problems among university students. It was expected that externality would be positively associated with both alcohol use and the occurrence of alcohol-related problems. A similar association was expected between high novelty seeking and the alcohol measures, whereas both harm avoidance and reward dependence were expected to be negatively related to drinking and alcohol-related problems. Apart from these hypothesised relationships, gender differences found in previous research on college students (Cox, & Baker, 1982a; Sher et al., 1991) were tested, namely that female students would be higher on harm avoidance, reward dependence, and locus of control than male students. 2. Relationship between personality and motivation The relationship between personality characteristics and motivational variables were examined in order to identify the role that each played in students' alcohol use and alcohol-related problems. Motivation is thought to be a critical influence on drinking patterns because the way in which individuals formulate goals affects their motivation to drink alcohol (Cox et al., 2002). For example, if a person expects to derive strong emotional satisfaction from achieving goals, that person would be less likely to drink alcohol to enhance positive affect or to reduce negative affect. In other words, people will be more motivated to drink alcohol for its mood-altering effects if they do not expect to obtain emotional satisfaction from nondrinking goals. Achieving goals depends on various factors, including the person's level of commitment, expected likelihood of success, the amount of control a person perceives over the outcome, etc. The extent to which people expect that drinking alcohol will help or hinder their goal achievements will also play an important role. For instance, if students' positive affect is enhanced when they drink with their peers, they will be motivated to continue drinking for this reason. If, however, they perceive that their drinking is interfering with their obtaining a university degree (a goal to which they are likely to be highly committed and from which they expect to obtain strong emotional satisfaction), they will be motivated to drink less. People's perceptions about their current incentives and their ability to realise goals that will enhance positive affect and reduce negative

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affect, or both, are measured with the Personal Concerns Inventory (PCI; Cox, & Klinger, in press-a,b,c), which was developed in the framework of the motivational model of alcohol use (Cox, & Klinger, 1988, in press-a,b,c). The PCI assesses an individual's motivational structure, identifying their maladaptive motivational patterns that will increase the likelihood of problematic alcohol use. In a cross-cultural study (Cox et al., 2002), the motivational structure of American, Czech, Dutch, and Norwegian students was assessed. Among students who had experienced alcohol-related problems, an adaptive motivational structure inversely predicted alcohol use in all four countries. It was concluded that having an adaptive structure increased problemdrinking students' likelihood of being able to reduce their drinking. Apart from investigating the relationships between personality factors and alcohol use and alcohol-related problems, the present study also assessed the role motivational structure plays in alcohol use and related problems among students. It was hypothesised that students' motivational structure would be related to both their personality and their alcohol use and alcohol-related problems. For example, an impulsive, novelty-seeking person might be committed to achieving unrealistic, short-term goals from which she/he would expect to derive strong emotional satisfaction. When such goals are not achieved, the person might turn to drinking alcohol as an alternative source of emotional satisfaction. Furthermore, a propensity to act impulsively and to seek new, perhaps dangerous experiences would render the person more susceptible to experiencing problems while drinking. Locus of control was also expected to be related to students' motivational structure. People who have an external locus of control feel that they have little personal control over the outcome of important events in their lives. Therefore, their commitment to resolving their important concerns and the likelihood of their achieving their goals would be reduced. The person would be more motivated than others to seek emotional satisfaction by drinking alcohol rather than attempting to resolve their important current concerns. Such people might also mistakenly believe that excessive drinking does not interfere with their goal achievements because events that occur to them are dictated by external influences, such as luck or authority figures. Finally, the present study aimed to determine how personality factors and motivational structure are related to each other and how the relationship between them is related to students' alcohol use and their alcohol-related problems. First, maladaptive motivational structure, defined as unrealistic expectations about goal achievements, was expected to be positively related to an impulsive, noveltyseeking orientation and to predict the occurrence of alcohol-related problems. An individual with this orientation would be concerned about drinking alcohol for its immediate, mood-altering effects rather than the negative consequences with respect to other goal achievements. In addition, having an external locus of control would strengthen the unrealistic expectations about goal achievements. For example, novelty seeking, externally controlled people would likely be pessimistic about resolving their important concerns, which would increase their motivation to drink, further hampering their goal achievements. Second, it was expected that harm avoidance would be positively related to an adaptive motivational structure. Finally, reward dependence was expected to be negatively related to an adaptive motivational structure. This was because, as Cloninger (1987b) indicated, individuals who are low in reward dependence are practical and emotionally cool—characteristics that should help them to resolve their current concerns. 3. Method 3.1. Participants Returning second-year undergraduate students (N = 729, females: 59.5%, males: 40.5%) were surveyed about their alcohol consumption


during the university's registration procedure, from which 212 second-year students were identified as excessive drinkers. Excessive drinking was defined as consuming an average of 24 or more units of alcohol per week. In the UK, alcoholic beverages are measured in units; a unit is defined as 10 ml or 8 g of pure alcohol. These students were then invited to participate in a follow-up study. The follow-up sample consisted of 111 students (females: 56.8% and males: 43.2%), whose average age was 19.9 years (SD = 2.5). 3.2. Measures 3.2.1. Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test A modified version of the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT; Babor, de la Fuente, Saunders, & Grant, 1992) was used. The AUDIT is a ten-item measure comprising three questions about alcohol consumption, three questions related to alcohol dependence, and four questions regarding alcohol-related problems. The AUDIT asks about a number of aspects of alcohol consumption, including usual frequency of drinking per week, typical amount of alcohol consumed per day, average weekly alcohol consumption, maximum amount of alcohol consumed on any one occasion, and frequency of consuming the maximum amount of alcohol. Reliability and validity have been established in a variety of research projects and epidemiological studies (Allen, Litten, Fertig, & Babor, 1997), and the AUDIT has been found to be an appropriate instrument for screening university students for problematic use of alcohol (Fleming, Barry, & MacDonald, 1991). It was used to identify students who were excessive consumers of alcohol. 3.2.2. Personal Concerns Inventory (PCI) The PCI (Cox, & Klinger, in press-a,b,c) was used to measure motivational structure. Participants were asked to consider their current concerns in five life areas: (1) Self Changes, (2) Relationships, (3) Education and Training, (4) Finances, and (5) Leisure and Recreation. The life areas were selected because they represented those areas considered most important to young students. Participants were asked to indicate the number of concerns they had in each of the five life areas and to focus on their most important concern in each life area. They then supplied a rating from zero to ten on each of 11 scales to portray the resolution of their most important concern in each life area. Respondents rated each goal on the following scales: (1) Whether the goal is something that the individual wants to get, obtain, or accomplish, or whether it is something that the person wants to get rid of, prevent, or avoid (Goal Valence), (2) How important it is to reach the goal (Importance), (3) How likely it is to occur (Likelihood), (4) How much control the person has over the outcome (Control), (5) Whether the person knows what to do to reach the goal (Know What To Do), (6) How much joy is expected if the goal is achieved (Joy), (7) How much unhappiness is expected if the goal is achieved (Unhappiness), (8) How committed the person is to achieving the goal (Commitment), (9) How far away in time will the goal be achieved (Goal Distance), (10) Whether drinking alcohol will help in achieving the goal (Alcohol Helpful), and (11) Whether drinking alcohol will interfere in achieving the goal (Alcohol Interferes). It should be emphasised that the Unhappiness scale asks respondents to consider, “How unhappy would I feel if things turn out the way I want?,” with this explanation is given: “Sometimes we feel unhappy, even if things turn out the way we want.” For example, securing a good job in a distant city might bring a person great happiness, but the separation from former colleagues and friends might bring some unhappiness. The motivational indices used in the present study included mean ratings across the 11 scales, total number of concerns named, and the number of life areas in which concerns were named. Studies of test–retest reliability, internal consistency, and content and criterion validity on closely related instruments have shown them to have acceptable psychometric properties (see Klinger & Cox, in press).


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3.2.3. Tridimensional Personality Questionnaire (TPQ) The TPQ (Cloninger et al., 1991) measures the three major personality dimensions hypothesised by Cloninger (1987b). Novelty seeking, harm avoidance, and reward dependence are each assessed by 20 items that consist of short statements to which participants answer true or false, and the scales are formed by adding the item scores. Cloninger, Przybeck, Svrakic, and Wetzel (1994) suggested that the three scales are independent apart from a small negative correlation between novelty seeking and harm avoidance. The psychometric properties of the TPQ have received much attention. Studies have provided support for overall construct validity (Howard, Cowley, Roy-Byrne, & Hopfenbeck, 1996), construct validity of the novelty-seeking scale (Cannon, Clark, Leeka, & Keefe, 1993), and predictive validity related to relapse in that high novelty seeking predicted relapse in detoxified male alcoholics (Meszaros et al., 1999). 3.2.4. Internal–External (I–E) Locus of Control Scale (LOC) The LOC scale (Rotter, 1966) is a 29-item questionnaire that measures generalised expectancies about internal versus external control of reinforcement. Each item presents a choice between two statements. Twenty-three of the items are scored; the remaining six items are fillers. Respondents are asked to select the statement that most closely matches their personal belief. The questionnaire is scored in the positive direction with higher scores indicating an external locus of control. A person with external locus of control perceives that events are controlled by external influences, such as luck, fate, or powerful people. A person with internal locus of control, on the other hand, perceives personal control over events. 3.2.5. Rutgers Alcohol Problems Index (RAPI) The RAPI (White, & Labouvie, 1989) is a 23-item screening instrument that assesses adolescent problem drinking. Respondents indicate how many times they have experienced particular problems while drinking alcohol or as a result of their drinking during the prior three years. 3.3. Procedure Students who were identified as excessive drinkers from their responses on the AUDIT attended an assessment session at which they completed the RAPI, TPQ, PCI, and LOC. 4. Results Students consumed an average of 45.67 (SD=19.52) units of alcohol per week. Average weekly alcohol consumption ranged from 24.50 to 112.00 U (range=87.50 U). Table 1 presents the means and standard deviations of the TPQ, LOC, RAPI scales and of alcohol consumption, separately for males and females. As expected, male students drank significantly more alcohol per week than female students [t(109)=3.85, p=.001] and consumed significantly more units than female students on drinking days [t(109)=3.52 , p=.001)] Female students were significantly higher than males on RD [t(109)=2.10, p=.039], but there were no significant differences between female and male students on HA and LOC. These results are consistent with the gender differences in personality found in previous research (Cox, & Baker, 1982a; Sher et al., 1991). 4.1. Factor analysis The indices derived from the PCI were subjected to exploratory factor analysis. The resulting factor solution indicated the degree to which students' motivational structure was either adaptive or maladaptive. The relationship between personality factors and motivational structure could then be assessed, and the ability of both

Table 1 Mean scores on the TPQ scales, LOC, RAPI, and weekly alcohol measures for male and female students. Males (n = 48)

Females (n = 63)


Mean (SD)

Mean (SD)


TPQ Novelty seeking Harm avoidance Reward dependence LOC RAPI Drinking frequency Drinking quantity Drinking QxF

10.92 7.58 12.21 11.83 22.75 5.15 10.75 53.36

11.05 8.70 13.76 13.13 19.89 4.83 8.62 39.80

ns ns ⁎

(3.22) (4.08) (3.92) (3.68) (12.41) (1.63) (3.63) (24.09)

(4.09) (5.19) (3.83) (3.91) (13.15) (1.20) (2.74) (12.46)

ns ns ns ⁎⁎ ⁎⁎

Note. TPQ, Tridimensional Personality Questionnaire. LOC, Locus of Control. RAPI, Rutgers Alcohol Problem Index for the prior 3 years. Drinking frequency, usual frequency of drinking days per week. Drinking quantity, units of alcohol typically consumed on drinking days. Drinking QxF, weekly amount of alcohol consumed in units (drinking quantity multiplied by drinking frequency). ⁎ p b .05. ⁎⁎ p b .01.

types of variables to predict alcohol use and alcohol-related problems could be determined. The 13 motivational indices from the PCI were first inspected to identify any deviations from normality that would threaten the validity of the factor analysis. Two variables, number of concerns and number of life areas, were sufficiently skewed to cast doubt on whether they should be included in the analysis. The number of life areas was severely, negatively skewed inasmuch as 93% of students had concerns in all five life areas; thus, this variable was excluded from the analysis. The number of concerns that the students reported ranged from 2 to 58, with a mean of 11; 69% of them reported having 12 or fewer concerns. This variable was positively skewed and was also excluded from further analysis. Initial extraction of factors was carried out using both principal components analysis and principal-axis factoring, and the two solutions were compared. A scree plot indicated that a two-factor solution would best fit the data. Extraction of two factors by principal components analysis provided a better solution than did principal-axis factoring. Therefore, the principal components, two-factor model was rotated to simple structure by both Varimax and Direct Oblimin procedures, and the two solutions were compared. The two rotated solutions were virtually identical and both were easily interpretable, but the Direct Oblimin solution was selected because this procedure allows the factors to be correlated with each other. Correlated factors are desirable from a theoretical standpoint because, as Kline (1994) pointed out, psychological phenomena are expected to be correlated. The two factors were labelled Adaptive Motivation (ADMOT) and Maladaptive Motivation (MALMOT). Commitment, Importance, Joy, Likelihood, and Goal Valence loaded highest on ADMOT. The indices Control, Know What To Do, Unhappiness, Alcohol Helpful, and Goal Distance loaded on MALMOT. Four indices contributed to the definition of the two factors. Likelihood of Success had a high positive loading on Factor 1 but a moderate negative loading on Factor 2. Both Control over Outcome and Know What To Do had high negative loadings on Factor 2 and moderate, positive loadings on Factor 1. Unhappiness positively loaded on Factor 2 but negatively on Factor 1. The two factors together accounted for 48% of the variance, with Factor 1 explaining 33% and Factor 2 explaining 15%. The factors were called ADMOT and MALMOT because the first set of indices reflected a functional motivational orientation, whereas the other set reflected an ineffectual approach to the resolution of a person's concerns. High Commitment, Importance, Joy, and Likelihood in relation to goals that are desired, coupled with moderate Control and Know What To Do, are necessary for the satisfactory achievement of goals. On the other hand, being low on Control, Knowing What To

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Do, and expected Likelihood of Success while being high on Unhappiness, Alcohol Helpful, and Goal Distance don't bode well for successful goal achievements. The summary scores for ADMOT and MALMOT that the factor analysis provided were used as variables in the subsequent analyses.

Table 3 Summary of hierarchical multiple regression analyses for alcohol use, motivational, and personality variables predicting alcohol-related problems. Dependent variable

Independent variables in order of entry


β in final equation

p of β


1. 2. 3. 4.

.01 .03 .06 .06

−.06 .19 .21 .06

.530 .042 .023 .007

4.2. Correlations Table 2 shows intercorrelations among the main variables. Among the personality variables, there were two significant correlations. HA and NS were significantly, negatively related to each other, which is consistent with Cloninger (1987b) theory and supports the results of previous research with college students (Nixon, & Parsons, 1989). LOC was significantly, positively related to HA. The relationship between personality factors and motivational structure was such that NS was unrelated to motivational structure, but HA was positively related to MALMOT, and RD was positively related to ADMOT. On the other hand, LOC was negatively related to ADMOT and positively related to MALMOT, as hypothesised. There were three significant positive correlations with the RAPI index, namely average weekly alcohol consumption, NS, and MALMOT, as was expected. 4.3. Multiple regression analysis The hypothesised ability of personality, motivational structure, and alcohol use to predict alcohol-related problems was tested in a multiple regression analysis. There were no problems with multicollinearity between the predictor variables. Entry of the variables followed a theoretical ordering, as Cohen and Cohen (1983) recommend. Therefore, the alcohol measure was entered first, motivational structure second, and personality factors third. On this basis, average weekly alcohol consumption, MALMOT, and NS were entered into a hierarchical multiple regression analysis. Gender was included as a covariate to control for its effects in the first step of the model, but age was not included because of the restricted age range of the sample. The results of the analysis showing the relative contributions of gender, average weekly alcohol consumption, MALMOT, and NS are displayed in Table 3. The regression model significantly predicted RAPI scores [F(4, 106) = 5.38, p = .001], explaining 17% of the variance in RAPI scores. Gender did not predict RAPI scores. Weekly alcohol consumption was a marginally significant predictor of RAPI scores, F(1, 108) = 3.68, p = .058, accounting for 3% of the variance. The addition of MALMOT produced a significant increment in R2, F(1, 107) = 7.74, p = .006, explaining 6% of the variance in RAPI scores. Finally, TPQ NS significantly predicted RAPI scores, F(1, 106) = 7.58, p = .007, independently accounting for 6% of the variance. The unique contribution of each variable to the prediction of the RAPI scores is illustrated in Table 3. Results from the regression analysis of the hypothesised model of personality factors, motivational structure, and alcohol use predicting alcohol-related problems, suggested that there might be a causal


Gender Weekly alcohol consumption Maladaptive motivation TPQ novelty seeking

Note. RAPI = Rutgers Alcohol Problems Index. Independent variables used in the analyses were gender, weekly alcohol consumption, maladaptive motivation (MALMOT), and TPQ novelty seeking (NS).

chain among these variables. To test this possibility a mediational analysis was conducted according to Baron and Kenny's (1986) guidelines. Regression analyses showed that alcohol consumption neither fully nor partially mediated the effect of NS or MALMOT on RAPI scores. The further possibility that motivational structure mediated the effect of personality on alcohol-related problems was assessed. The results showed that MALMOT did not mediate the effect of NS on RAPI scores. Therefore, each of the variables, average weekly alcohol consumption, MALMOT, and NS, had a positive, direct effect on excessive drinking students' RAPI scores, regardless of their gender. Finally, students were categorised as high or low on NS, high or low on MALMOT, and high or low on RAPI scores according to the median split of each variable. Pearson chi-square tests were carried out to examine associations between these categories. First, there was a significant association between level of NS and level of RAPI scores χ2(1) = 3.91, p = .048, in that students who were high on NS were 2.13 times as likely to experience alcohol-related problems as students who were low on NS. Second, there was a significant association between MALMOT and RAPI scores χ2(1) = 4.78, p = .029, such that students who were high on MALMOT were 2.31 times as likely to experience alcohol-related problems than students low on MALMOT.

5. Discussion The main finding of the study was that among excessive drinking students both novelty seeking and maladaptive motivational structure predicted their alcohol-related problems beyond that predicted by their alcohol consumption. In other words, novelty-seeking students and students with maladaptive motivation experienced a significant level of problems regardless of the amount of alcohol that they consumed. Moreover, although heavy drinking students experienced alcoholrelated problems, those high in novelty seeking or maladaptive motivation experienced the highest level of problems. The results showed that students who were high on novelty seeking or maladaptive motivation were more than twice as likely as other students to experience alcohol-related problems.

Table 2 Intercorrelations, means, and standard deviations of the personality factors, motivational variables, and alcohol measures. Variables











1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

−.26⁎⁎ –

ns ns –

ns .29⁎⁎

ns ns .26⁎⁎ −.27⁎⁎

ns .24⁎ ns .29⁎⁎ −.62⁎⁎

.28⁎⁎ ns ns ns ns .26⁎⁎ –

ns ns ns ns ns ns .21⁎ –

10.99 8.22 13.09 12.57 6.32 −.79 21.13 45.67

3.73 4.75 3.93 3.85 .84 .75 12.86 19.52

Novelty seeking Harm avoidance Reward dependence Locus of control Adaptive motivation Maladaptive motivation Alcohol-related problems Weekly alcohol use

Note. Weekly alcohol use was measured in units of alcohol. ⁎⁎ p b .01. ⁎ p b .05.

ns –


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Clearly, it is reasonable to expect that students who were more novelty seeking than other students would experience more problems than others when they drink excessively. The distinguishing characteristics of novelty seeking, according to Cloninger (1987b), are impulsivity, risk taking, disorderliness, and the occurrence of negative consequences from their behaviour. It was unsurprising, therefore, to find that, compared to other students, novelty-seeking students experienced more problems than would be expected from the amount of alcohol that they consumed. For example, if two students drank the same amount of alcohol, the one who was higher on novelty seeking would be more likely to experience problems because of the need for novel experiences and the inability to foresee the consequences of his or her behaviour. Furthermore, pursuing novel, intensely stimulating experiences without considering the consequences might help people high on novelty seeking to cope with their experience of negative affect. In other words, novelty seekers might avoid unpleasant, unwanted situations, and the accompanying negative affect, by pursuing experiences that both increase their low levels of arousal and reduce their negative affect, thereby serving as a short-term coping strategy (Magid, MacLean, & Colder, 2007). Unsurprisingly, too, the excessive drinking students who were high on maladaptive motivation reported a level of alcohol-related problems over and above that associated with the amount of alcohol consumed. Individuals with maladaptive motivation might be expected to experience more problems related to their alcohol use than others, because they lack the motivational resources to derive emotional satisfaction for resolving their current concerns. Also, theoretically, students high in maladaptive motivation would be expected to have more alcohol-related problems than others because of their inability to achieve their goals and to successfully resolve their important concerns. Drinking alcohol might become a primary source of emotional satisfaction for them, but it would disrupt still further their goal pursuits. The factor analysis of the PCI revealed adaptive and maladaptive motivational structures, featuring combinations of indices that distinguish and define the two factors. Taken separately, then, the two motivational factors can be described in the following way. Adaptive motivation was characterised by perceived high likelihood of obtaining goals to which the person is highly committed and regards as important. Adaptive motivation also featured an adequate knowledge of how to accomplish goals, a perception of adequate control over the outcome, and the expectation that accomplishing the goal would bring great joy and little unhappiness. Therefore, adaptively motivated participants were highly committed to goals that they were optimistic about achieving and from which they expected to derive strong joy. Maladaptive motivation, on the other hand, was characterised by lack of personal control over the accomplishment of goals that the person had little idea of how to achieve. There was little likelihood of achieving goals and their accomplishment was fairly distant in the future and would bring a fairly high degree of unhappiness. Crucially, the person perceived the consumption of alcohol as helpful in the accomplishment of goals. Therefore, maladaptively motivated participants lacked goal commitment, viewed their goals as unimportant, and expected to derive little joy from them. Interestingly, it is worth noting that alcohol interference loaded just below criterion for inclusion in the maladaptive motivation factor. This suggested an ambivalent attitude toward alcohol among those with maladaptive motivation, in which an individual recognised that drinking interfered with the achievement of goals, but that such interference was outweighed by the perception that drinking was helpful on some level. Interrelationships among the motivational and personality variables provided construct validity for the factor solution. Externality and high harm avoidance were associated with maladaptive motivation, suggesting that an apprehensive, pessimistic orientation would affect individuals' perceptions of their chances of successfully their resolving current concerns. On the other hand, internality and high

reward dependence were associated with adaptive motivation. Clearly, having an internal locus of control would be expected to foster people's adaptive motivation, because holding the generalised expectancy that success or failure at goal pursuits results from their own efforts would be an adaptive approach to pursuing goals. However, it was unclear why reward dependence was associated with an adaptive motivational structure. Possibly, high reward dependent students provided socially desirable answers that reflected the conventional way of resolving important concerns because they were conforming to perceived social norms. Alternatively, perhaps such individuals might be more likely to learn effective strategies for resolving concerns because they are socially dependent, readily adopting strategies that succeed at obtaining social rewards. The pattern of correlations among the personality factors and between personality and the alcohol variables was consistent with previous research. Among the personality factors, the relationship between novelty seeking and harm avoidance supported Cloninger (1987b) original findings with medical students, Nixon, and Parsons (1989) study of college students, and Howard et al.'s (1996) investigation of sons of alcoholics. In addition, the positive relationship between novelty seeking and alcohol-related problems was consistent with Cloninger (1987b) theory, Cannon et al. (1993) research with alcohol-dependent males, and Earlywine, Finn, Peterson, and Pihl (1992) finding that novelty seeking was related to alcohol abuse. Intercorrelations among motivational structure, personality, and alcohol-related problems provided mixed support for the hypothesised relationships. As expected, adaptive motivation was related to neither novelty seeking nor alcohol-related problems. Neither was the hypothesised relationship between maladaptive motivation and novelty seeking supported, although both maladaptive motivation and novelty seeking were associated with alcohol-related problems, as predicted. The predicted relationship between harm avoidance and adaptive motivation was not found, but harm avoidance was positively related to maladaptive motivation. Finally, the hypothesised, negative relationship between reward dependence and adaptive motivation was not supported; instead there was a positive relationship between the two variables. The hypothesised positive relationship between maladaptive motivation and novelty seeking was not found because, in retrospect, novelty-seeking students would not necessarily be expected to be maladaptively motivated. For example, maladaptive motivation described a pessimistic, apathetic attitude toward resolving goals in life. On the other hand, novelty-seeking individuals may be thought of as enthusiastic and confident although they may be unrealistic in overestimating the likelihood of achieving goals and underestimating the time needed to resolve concerns in their lives. In the case of harm avoidance, the positive relationship with maladaptive motivation was unexpected but clearly conformed to Cloninger (1987a;1987b) description of that personality dimension. High harm avoidance, according to Cloninger, included certain traits (apprehension, pessimism, and inhibition) that would be associated with maladaptive motivation. Finally, reward dependence was positively, rather than negatively, related to adaptive motivation. It was expected that the characteristics of low reward dependence (practicality, tough-mindedness, social detachment, and emotional coolness) would constitute excellent qualities with which to successfully resolve important concerns in life. However, the unexpected relationship between high reward dependence (eagerness to help others, sensitivity to social cues, emotional dependence, sentimentality, and persistence) and adaptive motivation possibly indicated the importance that social rewards represented to this type of individual. The need for social acceptance and approval, therefore, aids in the learning of adaptive strategies for the person who is highly reward dependent. The relationships that were found between personality and motivation are worthy of further attention. Reward dependence, harm avoidance, and locus of control all appear to have a complementary

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influence on motivational structure that warrants further investigation. For example, possibly the TPQ dimensions and locus of control can be used both to distinguish different types of motivation, and to determine how they affect motivational structure.

5.1. Clinical implications The findings of the present study have obvious implications for designers of prevention and intervention programmes. First, assessing novelty seeking and maladaptive motivation in alcohol screening programmes would identify student drinkers in need of further attention because these two factors increase students' vulnerability to alcohol-related problems. Both factors directly predicted alcoholrelated problems among heavy drinking students to the extent that the presence of each factor placed a student at over twice the risk to experience problems in contrast to other heavy drinking students. Therefore, novelty seeking and maladaptive motivation should be taken into account as risk factors for problematic drinking. Second, not only would it be beneficial for interventions to feature feedback regarding the particular risk posed to the individual by novelty seeking and maladaptive motivation, but also it would be potentially fruitful to devise an intervention programme that is centred on both novelty seeking and maladaptive motivation. From the findings of a recent study investigating the association between alcohol intoxication and alcohol problems, Neal, and Carey (2007) recommended enhancing self-regulation as a component of potentially effective interventions, because they found self-regulation skills to be a protective quality against the incidence of alcohol problems. With this finding in mind, teaching heavy drinking students to regulate their level of novelty seeking could be achieved within the framework of an intervention that aims to restructure motivation. Such motivational restructuring interventions exist (see Cox, & Klinger, in press-a,b,c), which could be adapted to include techniques for remedying deficits in self-regulation. In addition, as expected, locus of control varied across the two types of motivational structure with externality related to maladaptive motivation. Therefore, it would be useful to focus attention on this factor within motivational restructuring, because it would be beneficial to remedy maladaptive perceptions concerning the amount of control a person has over the resolution of concerns, the knowledge of what to do in order to achieve goals, and the likelihood of achieving them when the person believes that outcomes in her/his life are mainly a matter of chance.

5.2. Limitations Although self-reported alcohol use has been found to be reliable (Sobell, & Sobell, 1995), Neal, and Carey (2007) pointed out that the use of prospective daily drinking diaries, which include the incidence of alcohol-related problems, probably yields better quality data because it reduces the demands on memory. Therefore, the use of event-level methodology such as this would have increased the reliability and validity of the cross-sectional data collected in the present study. Although more costly than cross-sectional studies, longitudinal research in this area should be considered for future studies because collection of this type of data increases the confidence with which recommendations can be made. In addition, the current sample focused on the heaviest student drinkers at a Welsh university. Therefore, the results cannot be generalised to the general student population or to excessive student drinkers attending universities in other parts of the United Kingdom. For a complete analysis of the relationships investigated in the present study, future research would need to assess students at a representative sample of universities throughout the UK using longitudinal methods.


6. Conclusions The present study identified relationships between personality characteristics and motivational factors that constituted a promising avenue of further research. Apart from gaining understanding of how motivational structure develops, future research might take the form of tailoring interventions aimed at changing maladaptive motivation on the basis of different personality types. The benefit of changing maladaptive motivational patterns would be seen in the reduction of problematic alcohol use that should result from the increased degree of emotional satisfaction that a person would obtain from the successful resolution of current concerns. A question that could be addressed, then, is whether the combination of personality characteristics and motivational structure moderates the occurrence of negative consequences related to drinking alcohol and whether moderating the effects of novelty seeking and maladaptive motivation in an intervention can assist people to successfully achieve their goals in life. Among the personality characteristics, novelty seeking showed further promise as a risk factor in problematic alcohol use. Also, a maladaptive motivational structure showed the greatest potential for identifying problematic alcohol use among students. The presence of this factor increased students' vulnerability to alcohol-related problems when they drank excessively. Therefore, further research into the relationships between personality, motivational structure, and alcohol use is warranted because of its potential applications for changing problematic drinking. To summarise, students' motivational structure was distinguished by personality factors. That is, externality and high harm avoidance were associated with maladaptive motivation, while internality and high reward dependence were related to adaptive motivation. The occurrence of alcohol-related problems was directly predicted both by a novelty-seeking personality characteristic and by a maladaptive motivational profile. The implications for future research principally concern the reduction of alcohol-related negative consequences by targeting students with a maladaptive motivational profile, the task being informed by a full understanding of the role played by personality characteristics. Role of Funding Sources The study was not funded. It was conducted as part of the first author's Ph.D. thesis under the supervision of the second author. Contributors Authors A and B designed the study and wrote the protocol. Author A conducted literature searches and provided summaries of previous research studies. Author A conducted the statistical analysis. Author A wrote the first draft of the manuscript, but Author B contributed significantly to the final manuscript. Both authors contributed to and have approved the final manuscript. Conflict of Interest Neither author was paid to conduct the study. Both authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

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