Drinking motives, personality traits and life stressors-identifying pathways to harmful alcohol use in adolescence using a panel network approach

René Freichel*, Janine Pfirrmann, Janna Cousjin, Peter de Jong, Ingmar Franken, Tobias Banaschewski, Arun L W Bokde, Sylvane Desrivières, Herta Flor, Antoine Grigis, Hugh Garavan, Andreas Heinz, Jean-Luc Martinot, Marie-Laure Paillère Martinot, Eric Artiges, Frauke Nees, Dimitri Papadopoulos Orfanos, Luise Poustka, Sarah Hohmann, Juliane H FröhnerMichael N Smolka, Nilakshi Vaidya, Robert Whelan, Gunter Schumann, Henrik Walter, Ilya M Veer, Reinout W Wiers, IMAGEN Consortium

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
22 Downloads (Pure)


Background and aims: Models of alcohol use risk suggest that drinking motives represent the most proximal risk factors on which more distal factors converge. However, little is known about how distinct risk factors influence each other and alcohol use on different temporal scales (within a given moment versus over time). We aimed to estimate the dynamic associations of distal (personality and life stressors) and proximal (drinking motives) risk factors, and their relationship to alcohol use in adolescence and early adulthood using a novel graphical vector autoregressive (GVAR) panel network approach. Design, setting and cases: We estimated panel networks on data from the IMAGEN study, a longitudinal European cohort study following adolescents across three waves (aged 16, 19 and 22 years). Our sample consisted of 1829 adolescents (51% females) who reported alcohol use on at least one assessment wave. Measurements: Risk factors included personality traits (NEO-FFI: neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness; SURPS: impulsivity and sensation-seeking), stressful life events (LEQ: sum scores of stressful life events), and drinking motives [drinking motives questionnaire (DMQ): social, enhancement, conformity, coping anxiety and coping depression]. We assessed alcohol use [alcohol use disorders identification test (AUDIT): quantity and frequency] and alcohol-related problems (AUDIT: related problems). Findings: Within a given moment, social [partial correlation (pcor) = 0.17] and enhancement motives (pcor = 0.15) co-occurred most strongly with drinking quantity and frequency, while coping depression motives (pcor = 0.13), openness (pcor = 0.05) and impulsivity (pcor = 0.09) were related to alcohol-related problems. The temporal network showed no predictive associations between distal risk factors and drinking motives. Social motives (beta = 0.21), previous alcohol use (beta = 0.11) and openness (beta = 0.10) predicted alcohol-related problems over time (all P < 0.01). Conclusions: Heavy and frequent alcohol use, along with social drinking motives, appear to be key targets for preventing the development of alcohol-related problems throughout late adolescence. We found no evidence for personality traits and life stressors predisposing towards distinct drinking motives over time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1908-1919
Number of pages12
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2023

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© 2023 The Authors. Addiction published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Society for the Study of Addiction.

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