A structural equation model of alcohol use patterns among young adults in the U.S. military : complexities among stress, drinking motives, impulsivity, coping, alcohol use and job performance
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The primary aim of this study was to provide a model that depicts the alcohol use patterns of young males in the U.S. military. Using Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) based on a secondary data analysis of the 2005 Department of Defense (DoD) Survey of Health Related Behaviors Among Military Personnel, the researcher developed and tested a multivariate model of alcohol use patterns that incorporates psychological factors (i.e., work stress, family stress, and drinking motives) and developmental factors (i.e., impulsivity) associated with drinking and job performance among young adults. Multiple fit indices were used to assess the model fit. Bootstrapping and multiple group analysis were used to determine mediating effects of drinking motives and moderating effects of coping on stress and impulsivity induced alcohol use. The sample included 1,715 young (aged 18-25) male military personnel. The proposed model shows a good fit with the 2005 DoD data set. Controlling for service region, race/ethnicity, marital status, pay grade, and education level, the multivariate analyses provide limited support for a direct (positive) relationship between stress and alcohol use. The study does provide evidence for a fully mediated model of stress and alcohol use via drinking motives (e.g., drinking to forget about problems or to cheer oneself up from bad mood). Drinking motives also significantly mediated the relationship between impulsivity and alcohol use. These findings support the life stress paradigm and clarify the nature of the relationship between stress and alcohol use by verifying that cognitive processes have a substantial effect on drinking patterns. A multiple group analysis, however, showed that positive coping behaviors (e.g. talking to a friend or family member, saying a prayer, exercising or play sports, engaging in a hobby, getting something to eat, and thinking of a plan to solve a problem) do not significantly affect the relationship between stress and alcohol use. Implications for future research and practice include the importance of focusing on the mediating role of drinking motives as it may provide a critical intervention component for targeting stress-induced alcohol use. The findings also suggest the need to understand how young males’ impulsivity is linked to alcohol use and job performance directly and indirectly through drinking motives.