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problem- focused coping






* p

Table 3. Stepwise Regression Summary Statistics for Drinking to Cope



Beta In

Multiple R




risk expectancy






tension expectancy






perceived stress





* p

Table 4. Stepwise Regression Summary Statistics for Problem-Focused Drinking



Beta In

Multiple R




emotion-focused coping






self perception expectancy valence





* p

Figure 2. Estimated Model of Weekly Drinking


Risk & Aggression Expectancy

Perceived Stress Drink to Cope Weekly Drinking

Tension Reduction Expectancy

Emotion-Focused Coping

Problem-Focused Coping

Self Perception Expectancy Valence


The primary purpose of the present study was to replicate and extend the results of Cooper et al. (1992).

Specifically, the Cooper et al. (1992) stressor vulnerability model was modified to include family history of

alcoholism as an additional moderating variable, and expectancies were conceptualized as a mediating rather

than a moderating variable. The model was then tested in a college population sample. Overall, the results

of this study fail to support the proposed model, suggesting that expectancies play a distal rather than

proximal role in stress-related drinking. Furthermore, contrary to previous findings (i.e., Cotton, 1979;

Goodwin, 1988; Hill et al., 1992; & Ohannessian & Hesselbrock, 1993), family history of alcoholism did not

play a significant role, either directly or indirectly, in predicting drinking.

In contrast, the present results indicate that gender and coping are the most powerful explanatory

variables in the model. With respect to coping, only drinking to cope and problem-focused coping directly

predicted weekly drinking. Expectancies also emerged as an important explanatory variable, however, their

influence was exerted via indirect pathways (i.e., via drinking to cope and problem-focused drinking).

Likewise, perceived stress and emotion-focused coping also emerged as peripheral predictors (via similar

pathways) of weekly drinking.

Although the present results fail to support the proposed model, they are nevertheless fairly consistent

with the stressor vulnerability model proposed by Cooper et al. (1992). Specifically, in keeping with Cooper

et al.’s (1992) results, the present findings indicate that stress does not directly induce drinking, and that

another vulnerability factor must coexist with stress for drinking to occur. However, there is some apparent

discrepancy with respect to the specifics of these additional vulnerability factors, particularly concerning the

subtypes of coping mechanisms which affect stress-related drinking. Whereas Cooper et al. (1992) found

that individuals who were high in avoidance coping tended to drink more in response to stress, the present

study found that drinking to cope was the primary coping mechanism which moderated stress-related

drinking. In addition, the present study also found that the moderating influence of expectancies was not

limited to positive expectancies, as suggested by Cooper et al. (1992). Instead, the negative expectancy for

risk and aggression appears to act in concert with the positive expectancy of tension reduction to moderate

stress-related drinking.

It is important to note that many of the discrepancies between the present findings and the findings of

Cooper et al. (1992) are possibly due to significant differences in the measurement instruments employed.

First, with regards to the dependent measure, alcohol consumption, the criterion used to define one standard

drink in the Cooper et al. (1992) study required significantly smaller amounts of alcohol than did the present

study (i.e., 1 oz. versus 1.5 oz. of hard liquor, or 4 oz. versus 5 oz. of wine). Therefore, it is possible that by

utilizing stricter alcohol consumption criteria in the present study, certain findings that were found to be

significant in the Cooper et al. (1992) study were not significant here. Second, with regards to the

measurement of expectancies, the Cooper et al. (1992) study measured only positive expectancies. By

contrast, the present study measured both positive and negative expectancies, and it was found that both

are important in stress-related drinking. Third, with respect to coping, the present study elaborated on the

three coping styles used in Cooper et al. (1992) by adding a fourth category, drinking to cope. This

coping style proved to be a superior predictor of stress-related drinking than any of the other coping

dispositions. Finally, with respect to the measurement of stress, the Cooper et al. (1992) study used a

life events scale to measure stress. This measure of stress is inferior to the perceived stress scale, because

it only measures the objective occurrence of events, and not the subjective interpretation of whether the

individual perceives these events to be stressful (Cohen et al., 1983). As such, the discrepancy between the

overall results obtained in the present study and that reported by Cooper et al. (1992) may be due, in part, to

the fact that differing constructs were investigated.

Two limitations of the present study should be noted. The first and possibly most significant limitation is

the relatively small sample size of the study. This limitation precluded more in-depth statistical analysis,

particularly with respect to analyzing interactions. For instance, even though Figure 2 provides the

impression that drinking to cope plays a mediating role in stress-related drinking, this conclusion remains

invalid without the possibility of analyzing how drinking to cope interacts with gender and problem-focused

coping. Second, the present study examined a homogeneous college sample with respect to age, social

class, education, and race. This limits the generalizability of the findings.

Several issues are raised by the present findings that could be addressed in future research. Perhaps most

importantly, there is a need to determine which instruments provide the most accurate measurement of the

constructs in question. This would create a standard set of instruments that could be universally applied in

future investigations. Further investigation of negative expectancies would also be useful given the

import of the expectancy for risk and aggression in the present data. Similarly, the linkages among the

determinants in this model could be further clarified by examining the potential mediating role of drinking to

cope. Ultimately, to elucidate the nature of stress-related drinking, other potential moderators (i.e., income,

race, religion ) must also be investigated to provide a more stringent test of the stressor vulnerability model.

In conclusion, these results indicate that the stressor vulnerability model of stress-related drinking as

suggested by Cooper et al. (1992) is somewhat imprecise. A more refined model must pay closer attention

to the influence of drinking to cope and negative expectancies.


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1 Note that a moderating variable affects “the direction and/or strength of the relation between an independent variable and a dependent variable”. Whereas a mediating variable “accounts for the relation

between the independent and dependent variable”. Thus while “moderator variables specify when certain effects will hold, mediators speak to how or why such effects occur” (Baron & Kenny, 1986; P. 1174 & P. 1176).


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