This K01 research and training award will enable the PI to develop skills as an independent researcher using advanced methodological and statistical techniques to ultimately (a) uncover etiological factors of alcohol misuse among young adults, and (b) use that knowledge to refine brief interventions for young adult drinkers.
The aim of the proposed research is to identify the impact that event-level alcohol-related consequences have on subsequent drinking decisions among heavy drinking college students. Social learning theory (SLT) highlights the importance of both cognitive factors and contextual factors underlying alcohol misuse. Both SLT and recent research suggest that the way students subjectively evaluate their consequences (i.e., the degree to which consequences are personally perceived as positive versus negative) may be more important than the consequences themselves. This project will be the first to examine how the real-time subjective evaluations of positive and negative alcohol-related consequences influence latency to and amount of drinking at the next drinking event. Qualitative methods (focus groups with 30-48 heavy drinking college students;individual interviews with 10 pilot participants) will be used (a) to better understand how students personally evaluate the consequences of their drinking and (b) to modify measures for and learn how to maximize compliance with an ecological momentary assessment (EMA) protocol during discrete drinking events. Subsequently, EMA will be used to gather data from 72 students on consequences, consequence evaluations, and contextual factors (mood, event-level normative perceptions of consequences). Heterogeneous mixed effects and frailty modeling will be used to examine (a) contextual predictors of consequence evaluations, and (b) both real-time and next day evaluations as predictors of both latency to and amount of drinking at the next drinking event. An exploratory aim is to examine whether real-time and next-day evaluations of the same consequence differ systematically. Results will inform our understanding of college students'decisions to drink and will help identify potential targets of intervention. This research will lead to subsequent grant applications involving (a) a larger scale EMA examination of mediators and moderators of the impact of consequences on drinking over time, and (b) tests of whether evaluations and consequence norms can be modified within the context of intervention to result in decreased drinking. The PI will work with a highly skilled mentorship team (Drs. Kate Carey, Rochelle Rosen, Robert Miranda, Kristina Jackson, and Thomas Piasecki) to build four areas of expertise relevant to this research agenda: (1) qualitative research methods to inform measures and methods development;(2) methodology of EMA;(3) analysis of EMA data;and (4) intervention development. This K01 proposal to understand mechanisms of the influence of the real-time experience of alcohol consequences on later drinking addresses a key priority in the science of alcohol misuse, and will fully prepare the PI for an independent research career in this specific field.

Public Health Relevance

The present study aims to provide insight into the processes by which students make event-level drinking decisions;of specific interest are perceptions of consequences as normative, mood, and the ways individuals personally evaluate their positive and negative alcohol-related consequences in relation to subsequent drinking behavior. Findings may help identify students most at risk for continued alcohol misuse, and can be used to refine interventions for college drinking. As such, this research can ultimately lead to reductions in alcohol- related consequences (e.g., blackouts, injuries, sexual assault) among young adults.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Research Scientist Development Award - Research & Training (K01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZAA1)
Program Officer
White, Aaron
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Brown University
Public Health & Prev Medicine
Schools of Public Health
United States
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Merrill, Jennifer E; Treloar, Hayley; Fernandez, Anne C et al. (2016) Latent Growth Classes of Alcohol-Related Blackouts Over the First 2 Years of College. Psychol Addict Behav :
Merrill, Jennifer E; Lopez-Vergara, Hector I; Barnett, Nancy P et al. (2016) Hypothetical Evaluations of Positive and Negative Alcohol Consequences in Adolescents Across Various Levels of Drinking Experience. Psychol Addict Behav :
Miller, Mary Beth; Merrill, Jennifer E; Yurasek, Ali M et al. (2016) Summer Versus School-Year Alcohol Use Among Mandated College Students. J Stud Alcohol Drugs 77:51-7
Merrill, Jennifer E; Carey, Kate B (2016) Drinking Over the Lifespan: Focus on College Ages. Alcohol Res 38:103-14
Aston, Elizabeth R; Merrill, Jennifer E; McCarthy, Denis M et al. (2016) Risk Factors for Driving After and During Marijuana Use. J Stud Alcohol Drugs 77:309-16
Lopez-Vergara, Hector I; Spillane, Nichea S; Merrill, Jennifer E et al. (2016) Developmental Trends in Alcohol Use Initiation and Escalation From Early to Middle Adolescence: Prediction by Urgency and Trait Affect. Psychol Addict Behav :
Merrill, Jennifer E; Miller, Mary Beth; Balestrieri, Sara G et al. (2016) Do my peers approve? Interest in injunctive norms feedback delivered online to college student drinkers. Addict Behav 58:188-93
Merrill, Jennifer E; Kenney, Shannon R; Carey, Kate B (2016) The Effect of Descriptive Norms on Pregaming Frequency: Tests of Five Moderators. Subst Use Misuse 51:1002-12
Suffoletto, Brian; Merrill, Jennifer E; Chung, Tammy et al. (2016) A text message program as a booster to in-person brief interventions for mandated college students to prevent weekend binge drinking. J Am Coll Health 64:481-9
Merrill, Jennifer E; Martin, Scott; Abar, Caitlin C et al. (2016) Trajectories and correlates of reasons for abstaining or limiting drinking during adolescence. Addict Behav 52:1-7

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