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Alcohol expectancies in late childhood: an ambivalence perspective on transitions toward alcohol use

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Background:

Late childhood has been identified as a critical transition period in expectancies about alcohol use, but much previous theorising has been based on the assumption that the transition involves a simple shift from negative to positive. This paper addresses the possibility that young people entertain more complex alcohol-related expectancies, and are increasingly aware of both negative and positive consequences of consumption. Method:

Expectancies were measured in a sample of 233 primary school children aged 8, 10, and 12 years. Colour photographs of alcohol and non-alcohol items were presented in three conditions: item only, single adult, mixed group. Results:

Consistent with the ambivalence model of alcohol use ( Breiner, Stritzke, & Lang, 1999), children endorsed both positive and negative alcohol expectancies. There was a main effect for grade with older children endorsing alcohol expectancies more than younger children. At all ages, children's positive alcohol expectancies were higher than negative ones for wine and champagne, but the reverse was found for beer. Compared to non-alcohol stimuli, differences between positive and negative expectancies were much smaller for alcohol stimuli, indicating a more balanced or ambivalent expectancy configuration that was unique to alcohol. Conclusions:

Results are discussed with reference to motivational models of alcohol use that emphasise the role of ambivalence, and an integration of this ambivalence perspective with information processing theories of alcohol expectancy development is offered.
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Keywords: Alcohol expectancies; ambivalence; child development; prevention

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Western Australia, Australia

Publication date: July 1, 2003

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