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Keywords:

  • Alcohol Use;
  • Distress Tolerance;
  • Trait Aggression

Background

Trait aggression has been linked to alcohol-related problems among college students. However, the individual conditions underlying this association are unknown. Empirical evidence and theory suggest the importance of distress tolerance, defined as an individual's ability to withstand negative affective states, in the relationship between trait aggression and alcohol use. Therefore, the purpose of the current study was to examine whether distress tolerance moderates the relationship between trait aggression and problematic alcohol use.

Methods

Participants were 646 undergraduate students in a large university, who reported any lifetime alcohol use. The dependent variable, problematic alcohol use, was measured using the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test total score. The main independent variable, trait aggression, was assessed on the negative emotionality scale of the Multidimensional Personality Questionnaire, and the moderator, distress tolerance, was determined using the Distress Tolerance Scale.

Results

Hierarchical linear regression analyses indicated a significant interaction between trait aggression and distress tolerance in predicting problematic alcohol use, adjusting for demographic variables, regular substance use, depressive symptoms, and anxiety symptoms. Specifically, a significant positive relationship between trait aggression and problematic alcohol use was present among those with low, but not high, distress tolerance.

Conclusions

Results provide evidence that college students with high levels of trait aggression are more likely to engage in problematic alcohol use if they also evidence an inability to tolerate negative affective states. Study implications are discussed, including the development of prevention and intervention programs that target distress tolerance skills.