Date of Award

8-1974

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Sociology

Major Professor

Louis Dotson

Committee Members

Donald Hastings, Suzanne Kurth, Thomas Hood, John Philpot

Abstract

Social psychological and the sparse hormonal literature are reviewed for possible commonalities with respect to alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems. Self-concept, social anxiety, cortisol, and testosterone are proposed as interrelated but additive predictors of alcohol consumption among males in a party-type social setting. The relationships were thought to be amplified for those persons with a self-reported history of excessive drinking.

Sixty-five male collegians from four organizations were invited to attend parties sponsored by the research co-directors. Pre- and post-drinking venipunctures were taken but the subjects were not told of the specific interest in the steroid hormones. Further, the subjects were not encouraged or discouraged to drink alcohol and alternative beverages were available. Factor analyses of items taken from questionnaires were used to develop self-concept and social anxiety measures. Assays of pre- and post-drinking hormone levels and blood alcohol concentrations were done by three independent laboratories. Methodologies considerations for the research are discussed.

After taking into account the reported behavioral history of the subject with respect to alcohol-related behavior, the proposed variables explained approximately 40 percent of the variance in alcohol consumption. An intensive analysis of the data suggested that an inconsistency between cognitive and behavioral dimensions of self-concept, combined with higher levels of social anxiety and pre-drinking cortisol, were associated with alcohol consumpion among those classified in the excessive drinking category. The observed increase in post-drinking cortisol, combined with indications from the literature that adrenal activation is associated with the enhancement of anxiety, led to the speculation of an anxiety syndrome among excessive drinkers. Moreover, it was posited that for some persons the temporary anesthetic effect of alcohol ingestion may be offset by unanticipated consequences. One result might be the reactivation and, perhaps, heightening of the precursors of situated drinking. In the discussion it was noted that the antecedents of excessive drinking might involve particular occupations as well as social psychological factors. In general, it was noted that the often called "addiction" to alcohol might be better characterized as a syndrome that entails physiological conditioning, psychological expectations, and social behaviors.

Basic and applied implications of the findings are discussed. The general conclusion is that the study demonstrated the utility of incorporating social psychological and biological variables and that the comprehension of human behavior, particularly with reference to health-related problems, will not be forthcoming without continued efforts to conceptualize research, and interpret the complementary nature of such variables.

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