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Self-critical perfectionism and daily drinking to cope with negative emotional experiences among college students

While alcohol use may be viewed as a normative experience across college campuses, it has been linked with high levels of problematic alcohol use. A factor that may play a part in this problematic use is young adults who drink to cope with problems that arise. The current study attempts to build on previous research and investigate self-critical perfectionism and how it is associated with daily drinking to cope and negative emotional experiences.

Researchers recruited 222 undergraduate students form two universities with the average age being 20.12. The participants completed surveys about self-critical perfectionism, positive and negative daily affects (“interested”, “enthusiastic,” distressed,” “scared,” etc.), and daily drinking to cope. 46% of the 222 participants drank at least once during the weeklong study. The results showed that positive affect was not associated with drinking to cope, but negative affect was a significant predictor of daily drinking to cope. Participants experiencing higher negative affect were found to be more likely to drink on that same day.

Results also showed that participants higher in self-critical perfectionism were more likely to participate in drinking to cope as expected. This shows that self-critical perfectionism may in fact be a predictor of students drinking to cope with problems they may be facing during college. One important finding was that at low positive affect, students that ranked higher in self-critical perfectionism did in fact show to have higher levels of drinking than those who ranked lower in self-critical perfectionism. This information may provide foundation that when counseling undergraduate college students on problematic drinking behaviors it may be beneficial to consider their personal emotional states on coping, specifically in individuals that are self-critical perfectionists.

Take Away: Alcohol use may become problematic among college students and one factor that plays a role is drinking to cope. The current study builds on previous research and investigate self-critical perfectionism and how it is associated with daily drinking to cope and negative emotional experiences. 222 undergraduate students completed surveys about self-critical perfectionism, positive and negative daily affects, and daily drinking to cope. Participants experiencing higher negative affect were found to be more likely to drink on that same day. Results also showed that participants higher in self-critical perfectionism were more likely to participate in drinking to cope. This information may show that when counseling on problematic drinking behaviors, it may be beneficial to consider personal emotional states on coping, specifically in individuals that are self-critical perfectionists.

Richardson, C. M., Hoene, T. H., & Rigatti, H. L. (2020). Self-critical perfectionism and daily drinking to cope with negative emotional experiences among college students. Personality and Individual Differences, 156, 109773. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2019.109773

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