Shannon Bolithoe : A Writing Life

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20+ Social Media Hacks and Tips From the Pros : Social Media Examiner

Are you looking for the newest social media tips and techniques? Discover more than 20 ways to improve your marketing and save time.

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Character development: why do people drink (to excess)?

By Toni Kennedy

When developing your characters it is important to understand their motivations for acting as they do. In relation to problematic alcohol use it is though that there are two dimensions that explain why people drink:

  • Positive versus negative reinforcement and
  • Internal versus external motivation. That is, people may drink to obtain a desired outcome (positive reinforcement) or to avoid a negative outcome (negative reinforcement) and also for internal reasons (e.g., manipulating mood) or external reasons (e.g., social approval).

Crossing these dimensions results in four distinct drinking motives: social (positive, external), enhancement (positive, internal), conformity (negative, external), and coping (negative, internal). Social motives involve drinking to affiliate or celebrate with friends; in contrast, enhancement motives involve drinking to increase positive moods, such as excitement. Conformity motives, common in adolescents, involve drinking to fit in with peers. Last, coping motives involve drinking to alleviate negative affect, such as anxiety or depression.

Each motive has distinct alcohol outcomes:

  • Internal motivations (enhancement and coping motives) are significantly associated with drinking quantity and frequency and alcohol-related problems.
  • Enhancement motives are predictive of alcohol-related problems through increased consumption.
  • Coping motives are directly related to alcohol-related problems even after accounting for consumption.
  • Social motives are related to drinking quantity and frequency but not to alcohol-related problems.
  • Conformity motives are negatively associated with drinking quantity and frequency but are positively associated with alcohol-related problems

Coping motives have been further subdivided into two types which both uniquely predict alcohol-related problems:

  • coping with anxiety motives
  • coping with depression motives

Drinking Partnerships

Alcohol use by one partner often influences alcohol use by the other (i.e., social influence) and congruence of drinking patterns between partners is linked with relationship satisfaction. The similarity of alcohol use between romantic partners may be related to both selection and socialization (or social influence) processes. Selection occurs through the influence of individual characteristics, which lead an individual to seek out particular people.

During emerging adulthood, heavy episodic drinkers (five or more drinks in a 2-hr period) are more likely to create friendships with other heavy episodic drinkers. Social influence effects for alcohol are also found in married and dating couples. Thus, individuals are likely to initially seek out others with similar patterns of alcohol use (selection) and may then further escalate their drinking over time because of social influence (socialization).