Alcohol Expectancies and Drinking in Different Age Groups

Document Type



Community and Global Health (CGU)

Publication Date



Medicine and Health Sciences | Mental and Social Health | Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Substance Abuse and Addiction


Aims: Because expectancies about the effects of alcohol change as drinking experience is accumulated, it is likely that the relationship of expectancy to drinking will differ with age. In this study, we examine the prediction of drinking behavior from positive and negative outcome expectancy at different ages.

Design: Data were collected as part of the National Alcohol Survey, using a multi-stage area probability sample of the household population of the 48 contiguous United States.

Participants: US residents aged 12 and older (n = 2875).

Measurements: Survey questions included drinking habits (frequency, quantity, frequency of drunkenness, maximum quantity) and beliefs about the effects of alcohol (alcohol expectancies).

Findings: Structural equation models tested the relationship of positive and negative expectancy to drinking behavior in six age groups. Outcome expectancy accounted for a larger portion of the variance in drinking among younger respondents than among older respondents. However, suppression effects were common. When suppression effects were considered, positive expectancy predicted drinking better than negative expectancy only among respondents under 35, while negative expectancy was a better predictor of drinking status in most respondents over 35 years. Among drinkers, positive expectancy predominated over negative expectancy when suppression effects were considered.

Conclusions: These results suggest that negative expectancy predicts abstention, while positive expectancy predicts level of drinking among drinkers. In expectancy research, differences between drinkers and abstainers, age of participants and the presence of suppression effects should be taken into account.

Rights Information

© 2004 Society for the Study of Addiction