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How Poor Self-Control Links to Binge Drinking in Young Adults

How Poor Self-Control Links to Binge Drinking in Young Adults

Researchers at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) conducted a study to determine whether certain behavioral traits related to inhibition behavior, or self-control, might put some young adults at greater risk for binge drinking.

While prior studies on binge drinking have used a blanket approach on inhibition to gauge behavior, the new study looked at three specific subcomponents of inhibition behavior: the ability to stop or prevent a response to stimuli; the ability to cancel an already initiated response to stimuli; and the ability to override distracting stimuli in order to carry out a desired response.

“There are many aspects of inhibition behavior, which is essentially the ability to stop yourself from a particular behavior,” said lead author Andres L. Paz, a psychology student in FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Science.

“Looking specifically at risk factors, I wanted to see if there was one particular aspect of inhibition that could better predict propensity in young adults to binge drink.”

To test these subcomponent behaviors of inhibition, study subjects (ages 18 to 25) were assigned three tasks involving motor responses to different stimuli, with each task representing one of the three subcomponents.

Before the tasks, participants completed a detailed questionnaire on their demographic information, alcohol use, and binge drinking history. Every two weeks, they completed an online alcohol consumption log, and at the end of the study, they returned to the lab to perform the three motor response tasks again.

The researchers tabulated all of the data from the tasks as well as the surveys and alcohol consumption logs, to measure the number of intoxication days, the days in which the participants became drunk, and the number of days when they were hung over.

The findings show that the “withholding of the response” task — the ability to stop or prevent a response to stimuli — was the most significant factor in predicting binge drinking behavior. This particular task measured an individual’s ability to prevent himself or herself from responding to stimuli or stopping the response from happening altogether. Paz likens this to “self-control.”

A poor score on this task was associated with a higher number of drunk days.

“Perhaps our biggest takeaway from this study is that we suspect that the inability to withhold a response from stimuli plays a key role in putting a person at greater risk of binge drinking behaviors,” said Paz.

However, Paz cautions that there are still many unanswered questions and more research that is needed.

“We still don’t know if binge drinking puts you at risk of becoming an alcoholic or whether it is simply a phase you outgrow when you graduate. And what about weekend warrior binge drinkers?” said Paz.

“There are so many elements involved with any kind of addiction including alcoholism. That is why it’s so important to continue research in this area to help us develop more personalized approaches to treat addiction. One size doesn’t fit all.”

The study is published in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism.

Source: Florida Atlantic University

How Poor Self-Control Links to Binge Drinking in Young Adults

Traci Pedersen

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2018). How Poor Self-Control Links to Binge Drinking in Young Adults. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 25, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 3 Jul 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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