• Alcohol;
  • ambivalence;
  • approach-avoidance;
  • craving;
  • drinking problems;
  • readiness for change


Aims  The aim of study 1 was to develop a three-factor Approach and Avoidance of Alcohol Questionnaire (AAAQ), designed to assess mild and intense inclinations to drink, as well as inclinations to avoid drinking. The aims of study 2 were to cross-validate the AAAQ with an independent sample and to test the goodness-of-fit of three models of craving for alcohol: (a) the traditional unidimensional model; (b) a two-dimensional, approach–avoidance ambivalence model; and (c) an expanded two-dimensional neuroanatomical model that retains avoidance, while positing a threshold that partitions approach into two distinct levels and relates all three factors involved in craving to brain pathways associated with inhibitory processes, reward and obsessive–compulsive behaviour, respectively.

Design, setting and participants  The survey was administered to 589 Australian university students (69% women) in study 1 and to 523 American university students (64% women) in study 2.

Measurements  Inclinations to drink and to not drink (AAAQ), drinking behaviour (quantity and frequency), drinking problems (Young Adult Alcohol Problems Screening Test; YAAPST) and readiness for change (Stages of Change Readiness and Treatment Eagerness Scale; SOCRATES).

Findings  The expanded two-dimensional neuroanatomical model provided the best fit to the data. The AAAQ explained a substantial proportion of the variance in drinking frequency (41–53%), drinking quantity (49–60%) and drinking problems (43%). AAAQ profiles differed as a function of drinking-related risk, and the three AAAQ scales differentially predicted readiness for change.

Conclusions  Approach and avoidance inclinations toward alcohol are separable constructs, and their activation may not be invariably reciprocal. Craving can be defined as the relative activation of substance-related response inclinations along these two primary dimensions. There may be a threshold of intensity that separates mild from intense approach inclinations.