The role of alcohol outcome expectancies in risk for alcoholism among women with and without a family history of alcoholism

Allison Leigh Dorlen, Fordham University


Beliefs about the effects of alcohol are termed alcohol outcome expectancies. In previous studies, stronger positive alcohol expectancies have been associated with increased drinking behavior, and alcohol abuse and dependence symptoms among alcohol users. The present study compared alcohol expectancies using the Alcohol Expectancy Questionnaire (AEQ) in women with a confirmed history of alcoholism in one or both parents (FHP) to women with no parental history of alcoholism (FHN). These women were then prospectively tracked with regard to mood, alcohol use, and daily consequences of alcohol use across one menstrual cycle. The AEQ was re-administered in a follow-up visit. Alcohol expectancies were hypothesized to be higher among FHP women. Similarly, the relationships between (1) expectancies and drinking behavior and (2) expectancies and consequences of alcohol use were hypothesized to be greater among FHP women. Irrespective of group, it was hypothesized that women would increase their alcohol use premenstrually. Forty-one FHP and 44 FHN non-alcohol-dependent women ranging in age from 18–35 years old were assessed. The two groups did not differ with respect to age, race, and education level, although socioeconomic status was significantly lower among FHP women. The groups were equally distributed with respect to amount of alcohol consumed. However, FHP women reported significantly more lifetime DSM-IV Alcohol Abuse Symptoms, higher B-MAST scores, and greater marijuana use (though light) compared to FHP women. As hypothesized, alcohol expectancies were significantly greater in FHP women in 4 of 6 AEQ subscales and the composite score. Expectancies correlated significantly with drinking behavior among FHN women but not FHP women, suggesting that other factors influenced these women's drinking behavior. No group differences were found in the positive relationship between expectancies and alcohol use consequences. AEQ re-administration at 1-month follow-up showed that FHP women's scores dropped significantly while FHN women's remained stable. This unexpected finding may have implications for prevention efforts directed at these higher-risk FHP women. Finally, irrespective of FH status, alcohol use in moderate drinkers increased significantly during the menstrual phase of the cycle. These findings suggest that menstrual cycle may play a role in alcohol intake, though more research is needed.

Subject Area

Behaviorial sciences|Womens studies

Recommended Citation

Dorlen, Allison Leigh, "The role of alcohol outcome expectancies in risk for alcoholism among women with and without a family history of alcoholism" (2001). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3025952.