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)
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
Research Scientist Development Award - Research & Training (K01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZAA1)
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White, Aaron
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Brown University
Public Health & Prev Medicine
Schools of Public Health
United States
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Gunn, Rachel L; Norris, Alyssa L; Sokolovsky, Alexander et al. (2018) Marijuana use is associated with alcohol use and consequences across the first 2 years of college. Psychol Addict Behav 32:885-894
Miller, Mary Beth; Merrill, Jennifer E; Singh, Samyukta et al. (2018) College student knowledge of blackouts and implications for alcohol intervention: A qualitative analysis. Psychol Addict Behav 32:933-943
Merrill, Jennifer E; Rosen, Rochelle K; Boyle, Holly K et al. (2018) The influence of context in the subjective evaluation of ""negative"" alcohol-related consequences. Psychol Addict Behav 32:350-357
Lopez-Vergara, Hector I; Merrill, Jennifer E; Carey, Kate B (2018) Testing variability in response to a brief alcohol intervention: The role of self-regulation and the therapeutic relationship. Psychol Addict Behav 32:205-212
Merrill, Jennifer E; Rosen, Rochelle K; Walker, Susan B et al. (2018) A qualitative examination of contextual influences on negative alcohol consequence evaluations among young adult drinkers. Psychol Addict Behav 32:29-39
Janssen, Tim; Cox, Melissa J; Merrill, Jennifer E et al. (2018) Peer norms and susceptibility mediate the effect of movie alcohol exposure on alcohol initiation in adolescents. Psychol Addict Behav 32:442-455
Janssen, Tim; Treloar Padovano, Hayley; Merrill, Jennifer E et al. (2018) Developmental relations between alcohol expectancies and social norms in predicting alcohol onset. Dev Psychol 54:281-292
Miller, Mary Beth; Merrill, Jennifer E; DiBello, Angelo M et al. (2018) Distinctions in Alcohol-Induced Memory Impairment: A Mixed Methods Study of En Bloc Versus Fragmentary Blackouts. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 42:2000-2010
Merrill, Jennifer E; Boyle, Holly K; Barnett, Nancy P et al. (2018) Delivering normative feedback to heavy drinking college students via text messaging: A pilot feasibility study. Addict Behav 83:175-181
Carey, Kate B; Merrill, Jennifer E; Walsh, Jennifer L et al. (2018) Predictors of short-term change after a brief alcohol intervention for mandated college drinkers. Addict Behav 77:152-159

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