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Colder CR, Shyhalla K, Frndak S, Read JP, Lengua LJ, Hawk LW, Wieczorek WF. Alcohol Clin. Exp. Res. 2017; 41(12): 2185-2196.


Buffalo State University.


(Copyright © 2017, John Wiley and Sons)






BACKGROUND: As predicted by self-medication theories that drinking is motivated by a desire to ameliorate emotional distress, some studies find internalizing symptoms (e.g., anxiety, depression) increase risk for adolescent drinking; however, such a risk effect has not been supported consistently. Our prior work examined externalizing symptoms as a potential moderator of the association between internalizing symptoms and adolescent alcohol use (AU) to explain some of the inconsistencies in the literature. We found that internalizing symptoms were protective against early adolescent AU particularly for youth elevated on externalizing symptoms (a two-way interaction). Our sample has now been followed for several additional assessments that extend into young adulthood, and the current study tests whether the protective effect of internalizing symptoms may change as youth age into young adulthood, and whether this age moderating effect varied across different clusters of internalizing symptoms (social anxiety, generalized anxiety, and depression). Internalizing symptoms were hypothesized to shift from a protective factor to a risk factor with age, particularly for youth elevated on externalizing symptoms.

METHOD: A community sample of 387 adolescents was followed for nine annual assessments (mean age =12.1 years at the first assessment and 55% female). Multilevel cross-lagged two-part zero-inflated poisson models were used to test hypotheses.

RESULTS: The most robust moderating effects were for levels of alcohol use, such that the protective effect of all internalizing symptom clusters was most evident in the context of moderate to high levels of externalizing problems. A risk effect of internalizing symptoms was evident at low levels of externalizing symptoms. With age, the risk and protective effects of internalizing symptoms were evident at less extreme levels of externalizing behavior. With respect to alcohol-related problems, findings did not support age moderation for generalized anxiety or depression, but it was supported for social anxiety.

CONCLUSIONS: Findings highlight the importance of considering the role of emotional distress from a developmental perspective and in the context of externalizing behavior problems. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Language: en


adolescents; alcohol; externalizing; internalizing


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