Graduation Year

2008

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Psychology

Major Professor

Mark Goldman, Ph.D.

Keywords

Sensation seeking, Peer influence, Parental influence, Alcohol norms, Concept formation

Abstract

The current study aimed to simultaneously examine cognitive, social and personality development in a cross-sectional sample of 3rd, 4th and 5th grade children to explore the interplay among these processes and how they relate to changes in children's understanding of alcohol. To replicate previous work, this study comprehensively examined relative increases in types of expectancies as a function of development. Results demonstrated that children in higher grades held more positive, negative and sedating expectancies of alcohol and positive alcohol expectancies increased more than negative alcohol expectancies. Improved performance on cognitive measures were associated with positive alcohol expectancy endorsement, indicating that children's ability to incorporate positive beliefs about alcohol, which are conflicting with information typically taught to children in this age range, may be related to their ability to form and articulate concepts with age.

Among male participants, sensation seeking increased with age and was strongly associated with positive ideas about alcohol use, such as wanting to experiment with alcohol or planning to drink as an adult. Social influences on alcohol expectancies included exposure to drinking. When children's parents drank more, they had higher positive, negative and sedating alcohol expectancies, indicating that they had a greater understanding of all potential consequences of drinking, while children whose friends drank had higher positive but not other types of expectancies. Additionally, children who turned to adults for advice held increasing levels of negative and sedating alcohol expectancies across age, while children who sought support from their peers showed higher levels of positive and arousing expectancies across age groups.

The interplay between cognitive development and risk factors such as social awareness of alcohol, source of social influence, and sensation seeking personality begins to demonstrate key relationships to alcohol expectancies in late childhood. These social and personality risk factors are likely to play an even greater role in early adolescence as children move to middle school and experience puberty. This study provides a basis for future elaboration of the roles these constructs play in an individual's ability to understand the multifaceted expectations that are held in our society about the effects of alcohol on human behavior.

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