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Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2013 Oct;37(10):1737-44. doi: 10.1111/acer.12156. Epub 2013 Jun 13.

Automatic processes and the drinking behavior in early adolescence: a prospective study.

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Department of Child and Adolescent Studies, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands.



This study examined the bi-directional prospective link between automatic alcohol-approach tendencies and alcohol use in a group of young adolescents (mean age = 13.6 years). The adolescents in the present study were assumed to be at-risk of early alcohol use and later problem drinking. It was hypothesized that alcohol use and automatic approach tendencies would reinforce one another particularly in the absence of well-developed inhibition skills.


A total of 347 adolescents (N = 279 at follow-up) from special secondary education, a risk group for the development of substance use problems, participated in the study. Automatic approach tendencies were assessed with the alcohol-approach avoidance task, inhibition skills were assessed with the Stroop task, and alcohol used was measured using a self-report measure.


Zero-inflated Poisson analysis revealed a significant effect of automatic approach tendencies predicting alcohol use 6 months later, although only for adolescents with weaker inhibition skills.


Automatic approach tendencies predict future drinking behavior of young adolescents with relatively weak inhibition skills. The findings of the present study have important implications for alcohol interventions for adolescents. Results are discussed in terms of risk factors for the development of problematic alcohol use in young adolescents.


Adolescents; Alcohol; Alcohol-Approach Tendencies; Problem Drinking; Response Inhibition

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