Integrating Behavioral Economic and Social Network Influences in Understanding Alcohol Misuse in a Diverse Sample of Emerging Adults


Background: Behavioral economic alcohol demand is a measure of motivation to consume alcohol and a robust risk factor for alcohol misuse. Social networks that are dense with alcohol are also associated with heavy drinking, but the intersection of these risk factors has not been investigated to date. This study examined these interrelationships with structural equation modeling using cross-sectional data from a diverse community sample of heavy-drinking emerging adults (N = 602). Methods: Latent variables for alcohol social network, alcohol demand, and alcohol misuse were constructed. Next, relations between the latent variables were examined, including the indirect effect of alcohol demand in the relation between alcohol social network and alcohol misuse. An alternative modeling testing the indirect effect of alcohol social network on the relation between alcohol demand and misuse was also tested. Results: When alone in the model, social network alcohol density significantly predicted alcohol misuse. When alcohol demand was included in the model, social network alcohol density predicted alcohol demand, alcohol demand predicted alcohol misuse, and an indirect effect on alcohol misuse through alcohol demand was present. In the alternative model, an indirect effect was not present between alcohol demand and alcohol misuse by social network alcohol density. Exploratory analyses revealed significant sex, race, and college status differences. Conclusions: These results suggest that the influence of social network alcohol density on alcohol misuse may be, in part, through variance accounted for by alcohol reinforcing value. Longitudinal testing of this mechanistic pathway is warranted.

Publication Title

Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research