Behavioral undercontrol and alcohol consumption

Rachele L Flora, Pace University


One of the major personality dimensions that has been studied in connection with alcohol consumption is behavioral undercontrol (BU), which is a broad construct that incorporates various personality components. After a review of the literature, the components of BU appear to include (1) aggression/rebelliousness, (2) drive for stimulation, (3) aversion to routine, and (4) lack of constraint. There is often ambiguity with regard to the definition and measurement of BU. The goal of this doctoral project was to contribute to our understanding of the personality dimension of BU and its application to alcohol consumption by summarizing and integrating the various definitions of BU and the corresponding scales used to measure its components. Specifically, this study examined whether the four components of BU noted above uniquely predict alcohol use and alcohol-related problems. This project also examined whether alcohol consumption levels fully moderate the association between the BU personality factors and alcohol-related problems. An investigation of gender differences was included, as well as a factor analysis of the four BU variables to help determine whether BU may be best operationalized as a single-factor or multi-factor construct. The participants in this study were 388 college students from the University of Connecticut. They completed measures of the following: alcohol use; alcohol-related problems; antisocial personality/conduct disorder (the aggression/rebelliousness component of BU); excitement seeking (the drive for stimulation component of BU); impulsivity (the lack of constraint component of BU); and boredom susceptibility (the aversion to routine component of BU). Results indicated that all four components of BU were significantly and positively correlated with both alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems. With regard to the unique effects of each component, all of the BU factors except impulsivity were significant, independent predictors of alcohol consumption. Additionally, all BU factors except excitement seeking were significant, independent predictors of alcohol-related problems. The interaction effect was not significant on all four variables. That is, as the level of alcohol consumption increased, the relationship between each BU factor and alcohol-related problems did not become stronger. An investigation of gender differences indicated that the relationship between levels of consumption and antisocial behavior was stronger for males than for females. Finally, results of the factor analysis indicated that BU may be best represented as a multi-factor construct. Antisocial personality and impulsivity loaded significantly onto one factor, while excitement seeking and boredom susceptibility loaded significantly onto a second factor. One important implication of this study is that it is important to investigate all of the components of BU and investigate the unique contributions of the different personality traits in relation to alcohol consumption. Additionally, since there may be two separate components of BU, it is important for future studies to use factor analysis when studying this broad personality trait. It is possible that since there may be two separate components of BU that different intervention approaches may be needed for different sets of behavior.

Subject Area

Behaviorial sciences|Psychotherapy|Personality

Recommended Citation

Flora, Rachele L, "Behavioral undercontrol and alcohol consumption" (2007). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI3248219.



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