Expectancies As A Predictor Of Adolescent Alcohol Use

This paper examines the use of an idea referred to as expectancy as a predictor of teen alcohol use. Expectancies are concepts that a society reinforces which go on to influence a person\'s behavior. Current clinical and field studies show that alcohol expectancies are reasonably accurate tools in estimating future drinking patterns. This paper sets out to determine the practical applications of this knowledge in the real classroom.
Prior to the early 1960s, virtually no clinical studies were available on the topic of teen drinking, as literature mostly focused on negative social and moral implications of the activity (Maddox and McCall, 1964). Contrary to somewhat popular notion, however, adolescent drinking is not unique on to the last few decades. In fact, the best indicators show that "drinking among youth has been a longstanding phenomenon" that has shown no significant change over the course of the last 120 years (Barnes, 1982). In the sixties, the issue grew in prominence probably due to the rise of the counterculture and an increase in teen drinking and driving accidents. A number of pioneering social scientists set out to determine basic information about the commonalty and frequency of alcohol use in this age group. Though specific data varied from study to study due to methodology and demographics, a striking picture emerged that "alcohol use is very prevalent among teenagers and young adults." In fact, Barnes (1982) co
Once research findings established the basic foundations, further questions soon arose on the psychological reasons behind the increase in consumption. Though the answers are still not definitive by any means, a few commonly accepted theories arose. Teens almost consistently report one of three reasons for drinking: partying, self-expression, and anxiety (Maddox and McCall, 1964). None of this information, however, is of particular alarm. Regardless of the reason, most adolescent drinkers consume only occasionally and generally responsibly (Barnes, 1982; Finn, 1979). In fact, a few authors contend that teenage drinking can be a fairly normal step in the process of identity development (Finn, 1979). "Drinking," claims Maddox and McCall (1964), "is important for validating their self-conceptions as adults or their claims to adult status." A great deal of controversy exists on whether time spent with peers in reckless activities such as drinking is a positive aspect of the socialization process as well.
In the late 1970s and into the 1980s researchers begun to realize that they had not designed their studies to examine this much more destructive phenomenon of problem drinking. Differing definitions of problem drinking exist, but virtually all contemporary authors agree that it involves drinking often, and to the point of extreme intoxication. A very complex web of answers began to unfold which included, peer pressure, parental permissiveness, boredom, parental substance abuse and emotional problems (Finn, 1979). Further, it became clear that psychological perceptions of drinking influenced these adolescents\' behaviors as much as the physical effects of alcohol (Christiansen et al., 1989).
Researchers began a continuing effort piece together a single explanation for problem drinking. Given the vast set of variables involved, this goal proved to be a formidable task. They shifted focus to the emerging theory of expectancies as a method of prediction. Goldman et al. (1987) defined alcohol expectancy as referring,
to the anticipation of a systematic relationship between events or objects in some upcoming situation. The relationship is understood to be of an if-then variety: If a certain event or object is registered then a certain event is expected to followÉ
Expectation can be inferred to have causal status in that an individual with his/her own actions, may produce a certain consequence upon noting that an if condition is fulfilled.
More simply stated, drinkers learn certain behavior about drinking from their society. When exposed to alcohol, or alcohol-related cues, they accept and act upon these understandings. Aas (1995) believes, "children learn what to expect of alcohol and those expectations are reinforced throughout our societies." These expectancies develop early in life, perhaps as early as the fourth grade (Miller et al., 1990).
A number of surveys can detect expectancies. The one most commonly used for adolescents is the Alcohol Expectancy Questionnaire- Adolescent Form, (AEQ-A). Other significant surveys include both the Alcohol Effects Scale (AES), and the Effects of Drinking Alcohol (EDA). These questionnaires involve extensive