The proposed investigation seeks to examine the relationship between alcohol consumption patterns and sexuality among male and female emerging adults (ages 18-29) in New York City (NYC). We will undertake a longitudinal, prospective, mixed methods study, guided by the following three aims: (1) Test a new theoretical model, Conflict-Motivation Theory (CMT), which focuses on the role of sexual conflict in predicting risk-taking among emerging adults in the context of alcohol use. (2) Examine the role of developmental and individual (e.g. neurocognitive maturation, decision-making ability), social (e.g. social norms, attitudes, personal beliefs and values), and contextual (e.g. partner characteristics, alcohol dose, and setting) factors in shaping both sexual conflict and the associations among conflict, alcohol consumption, and risk-taking outlined in CMT. (3) Examine and identify the specific roles of gender (including gender roles, and sexual double standards), sexual orientation (including sexual identity and internalized homophobia), and race/ethnicity in shaping both sexual conflict and the associations among conflict, alcohol consumption, and risk-taking outlined in CMT. To achieve these aims, we will recruit and enroll 400 emerging adults into our study (stratified by gender, sexual orientation, and race/ethnicity) using Respondent Driven Sampling and conduct assessments of conflict, alcohol consumption patterns, and sexual risk-taking behaviors three times over the course of two years. Data analyses will utilize structural equation modeling, path analyses, and univariate and multivariate growth curve modeling to determine the relationships between these factors as a means of understanding the relationship between alcohol and sexuality and of evaluating the use of CMT to explain this relationship. Quantitative assessments (administered via Audio-CASI) will be complemented by our use of qualitative techniques to provide us with episode-specific data to help realize the relationships that we are assessing as well as to further understand contextual aspects of the relationship (e.g., reasons for combining alcohol and sexual activity, social contexts of drinking and sexual activity, etc.). Mixed-methods strategies will be used to examine the qualitative and quantitative data together in order to further test the proposed theoretical framework (CMT) and to better understand and explicate potential implications for intervention development.

Public Health Relevance

The findings of this study will facilitate a more nuanced understanding of the reciprocal relationship between alcohol consumption patterns and sexuality, which will, in turn, inform prevention and intervention efforts. Specifically, the findings will inform preventions, interventions, and treatments designed to decrease alcohol use, abuse, and the problems associated with alcohol consumption and also inform efforts to decrease risky sex practices, alcohol-related sexual victimization, and the negative consequences often associated with combining alcohol and sexual activity.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Research Project (R01)
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Social Sciences and Population Studies Study Section (SSPS)
Program Officer
Bures, Regina M
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Hunter College
Schools of Arts and Sciences
New York
United States
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Wells, Brooke E; Rendina, H Jonathon; Kelly, Brian C et al. (2016) Demographic Predictors of Event-Level Associations between Alcohol Consumption and Sexual Behavior. J Urban Health 93:155-69
Wells, Brooke E; Starks, Tyrel J; Robel, Erika et al. (2016) From Sexual Assault to Sexual Risk: A Relational Pathway? J Interpers Violence 31:3377-3395
Kelly, Brian C; Wells, Brooke E; Pawson, Mark et al. (2013) Novel psychoactive drug use among younger adults involved in US nightlife scenes. Drug Alcohol Rev 32:588-93
Wells, Brooke E; Kelly, Brian C; Pawson, Mark et al. (2013) Correlates of concurrent energy drink and alcohol use among socially active adults. Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse 39:8-15
Kelly, Brian C; Wells, Brooke E; Leclair, Amy et al. (2013) Prevalence and correlates of prescription drug misuse among socially active young adults. Int J Drug Policy 24:297-303
Kelly, Brian C; Wells, Brooke E; Leclair, Amy et al. (2013) Prescription drug misuse among young adults: looking across youth cultures. Drug Alcohol Rev 32:288-94