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Comparing Structural Equation Models That Use Different Measures of the Level of Response to Alcohol


  • This work was supported by the National Institute of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse Grant 05526.

Reprint requests: Marc Schuckit, MD, Department of Psychiatry (0866), UC San Diego, 8950 Villa La Jolla Drive, Suite B-218, La Jolla, CA 92093-0866; USA; Fax: +858-822-1002; E-mail:


Background:  The two measures of a low level of response (LR) to alcohol, an alcohol challenge and the retrospective Self-Report of the Effects of Alcohol questionnaire (SRE), each identify individuals at high risk for heavy drinking and alcohol problems. These measures also perform similarly in identifying subjects with unique functional brain imaging characteristics. However, few data are available regarding whether alcohol challenge-based and SRE-based LRs operate similarly in structural equation models (SEMs) that search for characteristics, which help to mediate how LR impacts alcohol outcomes.

Methods:  Two hundred and ninety-four men from the San Diego Prospective Study were evaluated for their LR to alcohol using alcohol challenges at ∼age 20. At ∼age 35, the same subjects filled out the SRE regarding the number of drinks needed for effects 15 to 20 years earlier. The two different LR scores for these men were used in SEM analyses evaluating how LR relates to future heavy drinking and to drinking in peers (PEER), alcohol expectancies (EXPECT), and drinking to cope (COPE) as potential mediators of the LR to drinking pattern (ALCOUT) relationships.

Results:  While the 2 LR measures that were determined 15 years apart related to each other at a modest level (= 0.17, < 0.01), the SEM results were similar regardless of the LR source. In both alcohol challenge-based and SRE-based LR models, LR related directly to ALCOUT, with partial mediation from PEER and COPE, but not through EXPECT in these 35-year-old men.

Conclusions:  Consistent with the >60% overlap in prediction of outcomes for the 2 LR measures, and with results from functional brain imaging, alcohol challenge- and SRE-based LR values operated similarly in SEM models in these men.