• Causal attribution;
  • drinking motives;
  • predictor-criterion contamination bias;
  • scale transformation;
  • school surveys


Aims  To investigate whether the predominant finding of generalized positive associations between self-rated motives for drinking alcohol and negative consequences of drinking alcohol are influenced by (i) using raw scores of motives that may weight inter-individual response behaviours too strongly, and (ii) predictor-criterion contamination by using consequence items where respondents attribute alcohol use as the cause.

Design  Cross-sectional study within the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and other Drugs (ESPAD).

Setting  School classes.

Participants  Students, aged 13–16 (n = 5633).

Measurements  Raw, rank and mean-variance standardized scores of the Drinking Motives Questionnaire—Revised (DMQ-R); four consequences: serious problems with friends, sexual intercourse regretted the next day, physical fights and troubles with the police, each itemized with attribution (‘because of your alcohol use’) and without.

Findings  As found previously in the literature, raw scores for all drinking motives had positive associations with negative consequences of drinking, while transformed (rank or Z) scores showed a more specific pattern: external reinforcing motives (social, conformity) had negative and internal reinforcing motives (enhancement, coping) had non-significant or positive associations with negative consequences. Attributed consequences showed stronger associations with motives than non-attributed ones.

Conclusion  Standard scoring of the Drinking Motives Questionnaire (Revised) fails to capture motives in a way that permits specific associations with different negative consequences to be identified, whereas use of rank or Z-scores does permit this. Use of attributed consequences overestimates the association with drinking motives.