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J Stud Alcohol. 2005 Jan;66(1):82-90.

The cumulative effects of acute alcohol consumption, individual differences and situational perceptions on sexual decision making.

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  • 1Department of Community Medicine, Wayne State University, 4201 St. Antoine, Detroit, Michigan 48201, USA.



Past alcohol administration research has produced mixed findings regarding the role of acute alcohol consumption on sexual decision making. The purpose of this study was to evaluate a more complex theoretical model that places alcohol's acute effects in context, through the inclusion of background measures as well as affective and cognitive responses to the specific situation.


College students (90 men, 90 women) completed a survey that included measures of individual difference characteristics and past experiences; approximately 1 month later, they participated in an alcohol administration study. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three drink conditions (sober, placebo, alcohol), after which they read a story about a couple that wanted to have sex, but had no condoms available.


In hierarchical multiple regression analyses, acute alcohol consumption significantly predicted participants' perceived likelihood that they would have sex without a condom in such a situation; an earlier step included gender, impulsivity, self-reported alcohol expectancies, frequency of heavy drinking, lifetime number of sexual partners and frequency of condom use. There was no significant effect associated with the expectancy that one had consumed alcohol. Neither was there a significant interaction between drink condition and self-reported alcohol expectancies.


Through the inclusion of measures of individual differences and responses to the specific situation, this study provides a more nuanced understanding of the factors that affect college students' sexual decision making, compared with laboratory studies that examine the effects of acute alcohol consumption in isolation. Alcohol consumption explained a significant yet relatively small amount of variance. Researchers need to consider the broader context to understand how intoxication influences sexual decision making.

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