Self-Awareness Theory, Family History of Alcoholism, and Adolescent Alcohol Involvement

Laurie Chassin, Laura McLaughlin Mann, Kenneth J. Sher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


A recent psychological theory (Hull, 1981) suggests that alcohol use may be motivated by a desire to avoid painful states of self-awareness. Highly self-aware individuals who are receiving failure feedback are hypothesized to use alcohol to reduce their awareness of negative self-relevant information. However, data in support of this theory are derived largely from laboratory studies of adult populations. Two studies were conducted to evaluate the theory in predicting adolescent drinking behavior in the natural environment. The studies also examined the ability of the model to account for phenomena of clinical importance, namely, indicators of adolescent problem drinking and drinking among high-risk adolescents (offspring of problem drinkers). Results showed that adolescent drinking was predictable as a function of demographic variables, self-awareness, failure feedback, and a family history of alcohol abuse. However, the predictions of self-awareness theory were not supported. The results are interpreted with regard to describing boundary conditions within which self-awareness theory is useful in explaining alcohol consumption.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)206-217
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Abnormal Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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