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Keywords:

  • First Nations;
  • Alcohol Use;
  • Sociocultural Factors

Background

Spillane and Smith (2007, Psychol Bull 133:395–418) postulated that high levels of problem drinking in some First Nation (FN) communities resulted in part from the perception that there is low access to alternative reinforcers (e.g., jobs, friendships, family relationships, and financial security), that many alternative reinforcers are less contingent on sobriety, and that others are available regardless of drinking status for reserve-dwelling FN members.

Methods

This study examined perceptions of access to alternative reinforcers and the extent to which access varied as a function of drinking in 211 FN members living on 1 reserve in Canada, 138 middle socioeconomic status Caucasians (MCCs), and 98 low socioeconomic status Caucasians (LCCs).

Results

The FN group expected less access to employment, quality family and friend relationships, and financial security compared with the MCC group. After controlling for perceived access in general, gender, and age, the FN group reported that drinking would not cause a decrease in access to employment, family relationships, friendships, and finances as compared to the MCC group. The FN group did not differ from the LCC group in the degree to which they expected drinking to cost access to family relationships or finances, but the LCC group expected drinking to have less of an impact on access to jobs and friendships as compared to the FN group.

Conclusions

The results provide initial support for the Spillane and Smith theory of problem drinking among this 1 FN group. The results suggest that increasing access to these reinforcers may reduce problematic drinking in this FN group.