Extraversion predicts heavy drinking in college students
- ISSN: 01918869
- DOI: 10.1016/S0191-8869(97)00015-9
The self-regulation of arousal has been hypothesized to play a key role in the etiology of substance abuse (Miller & Brown, 1991; Tarter, Alterman & Edwards, 1985). Specific drugs may be used in a self-medicating fashion in an attempt to modulate extremes of, or dysregulated arousal (Petrie, 1967). The personality attribute of introversion-extraversion is one promising dimension to be explored in this regard. According to Eysenck's (Eysenck, 1967) theory, introverts typically show higher levels of cortical arousal than extraverts. Thus, introverts seek a reduction of their arousal levels, whereas extraverts seek increased arousal. Because alcohol is a depressant, introverts might be predicted to use this type of drug more than extraverts do (cf. Petrie, 1967). Tarnai and Young (1983) reported that patients in two alcoholism treatment centers tested as more introverted and non-alcoholics as more extraverted. Studies with college students, on the other hand, have linked frequent drinking (Moos, Moos & Kulik, 1976; Orford, Waller & Pete, 1974) and subsequent alcoholism (Loper, Kammeier & Hoffman, 1973) to extraverted personality traits. Still others have pointed to personality diversity among alcoholics (MacAndrew, 1980; Nerviano, 1976). Negative emotionality is a type of arousal that appears to be particularly important in the etiology and course of substance abuse. The tension reduction hypothesis first proposed by Conger (1951), linked alcohol use to the relief of stress and tension. Although evidence is at best mixed on alcohol as a stress reducer,individuals who 'believe' that alcohol relieves stress may drink more heavily (Harris & Fennell, 1988). Problem drinking is associated with elevated rates of certain anxiety disorders (Kushner, Sher & Beitman, 1990) suggesting that alcohol may be used as a self-medication for negative emotions, a view consistent with college students' perceived causes of drug-use among their peers (Muncer, Epro, Sidorowicz & Campbell, 1992). Others have linked heavy drinking to trait anxiousness (Welte, 1985). Similarly, research has linked drinking and anger. Drinking may serve as a means of releasing anger (Jenni & Wollersheim, 1979; Lang, Goeckner, Adesso & Marlatt, 1975). Interpersonal conflict and anger are frequently reported as precipitants of relapse (Marlatt gr Gordon, 1985). Acts of violence are often committed under the influence of substances such as alcohol (Johnson & Belfer, 1995; Pernanen, 1976), and drunk driving offenders have been found to be more aggressive and dangerous drivers even when not intoxicated (Ross, 1984). Drug use has been linked to angry temperament (Jacobs, Neufeld, Sayers & Spielberger, 1988), consistent with stated reasons for drinking among arrested juveniles (Segal, Cromer, Hobfoll & Wasserman, 1982). In college students, alcohol problems have been linked to trait anger as well as trait anxiousness (Brooks, Walfish, Stenmark & Canger, 1981). The present study focused on the relationship between drinking and these three arousal-relevant personality characteristics: introversion-extraversion, anxiousness, and trait anger. The purpose of the study was to determine the extent to which these traits, when measured simultaneously, could predict college students' drinking patterns. Gender differences in these relationships were also examined.