Prevention Science

, Volume 17, Issue 5, pp 584–594 | Cite as

Drinking to Cope: a Latent Class Analysis of Coping Motives for Alcohol Use in a Large Cohort of Adolescents

  • Lexine A. Stapinski
  • Alexis C. Edwards
  • Matthew Hickman
  • Ricardo Araya
  • Maree Teesson
  • Nicola C. Newton
  • Kenneth S. Kendler
  • Jon Heron


Alcohol consumption during adolescence is widespread, although there is considerable variation in patterns of use. The aim of this study was to identify patterns of coping-motivated alcohol use in a UK birth cohort and examine individual and family characteristics associated with the resulting drinker profiles. At age 17, participants (n = 3957; 56 % female) reported their alcohol and drug use, internalising symptoms and use of alcohol to cope with a range of emotions. Socio-demographic data were collected via maternal report. Latent class analysis identified drinker subtypes based on the coping motives reported. Association between these profiles and socio-demographic characteristics and internalising disorders was examined. The vast majority (92 %) of adolescents reported alcohol consumption in the past year, and 26 % of those drank weekly or more often. Four distinct motive profiles were identified. These profiles were associated with different socio-demographic characteristics: adolescents from higher socio-economic backgrounds drank primarily for increased confidence, whereas adolescents from low socio-economic backgrounds were more likely to drink to cope with low mood. Adolescents with an anxiety or depressive disorder were six times more likely to fall within the high-risk subtype, characterised by a generalised pattern of drinking to cope with emotions across the board. Coping motives for drinking vary with individual and family factors. Adolescents from low versus high socio-economic backgrounds were characterised by distinct drinking profiles; thus, prevention messages may need to be tailored accordingly. Internalising disorders were strongly associated with a high-risk profile of coping-motivated drinking.


Alcohol Drinking motives Drinking to cope Anxiety Depression 



We are extremely grateful to all the families who took part in this study, the midwives for their help in recruiting them and the whole ALSPAC team, which includes interviewers, computer and laboratory technicians, clerical workers, research scientists, volunteers, managers, receptionists and nurses. The UK Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust (Grant ref: 102215/2/13/2) and the University of Bristol provide core support for ALSPAC. This publication is the work of the authors, who will serve as guarantors for the contents of this paper. L.S. is supported by a fellowship from the Australian Society for Mental Health Research. J.H. is supported by the UK Medical Research Council (Grant refs: G0800612 and G0802736) and the Wellcome Trust (Grant ref: 086684). Additional support was provided by the National Institutes of Health (K01AA021399 to A.C.E; R01AA018333 to K.S.K) and the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (Grant ref: 1078407 to M.T.).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest


Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Copyright information

© Society for Prevention Research 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lexine A. Stapinski
    • 1
    • 2
  • Alexis C. Edwards
    • 3
  • Matthew Hickman
    • 2
  • Ricardo Araya
    • 4
  • Maree Teesson
    • 1
  • Nicola C. Newton
    • 1
  • Kenneth S. Kendler
    • 3
  • Jon Heron
    • 2
  1. 1.NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Mental Health and Substance Use, National Drug and Alcohol Research CentreUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  2. 2.School of Social and Community MedicineUniversity of BristolBristolUK
  3. 3.Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral GeneticsVirginia Commonwealth UniversityRichmondUSA
  4. 4.Department of Population HealthLondon School of Hygiene and Tropical MedicineLondonUK

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