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Direct and Indirect Effects of Impulsivity Traits on Drinking and Driving in Young Adults

Hayley R. Treloar, David H. Morris, Sarah L. Pedersen, Denis M. McCarthy

Objective: Impulsivity is strongly associated with alcohol-related risk-taking behavior, and this association has been found to be mediated by alcohol cognitions. The current study expanded this literature by comparing the relative association of distinct impulsivity traits with a specific risky behavior—drinking and driving. We then tested whether drinking-and-driving expectancies uniquely mediated this relation over and above other cognitions about alcohol and drinking and driving. Method: College student drivers (n = 816; 53.6% women) completed a paper-and-pencil survey in small groups. Self-report measures assessed alcohol use, impulsivity traits, alcohol expectancies, drinking-and-driving cognitions (i.e., expectancies, attitudes, beliefs), and drinking and driving. Results: Although all impulsivity traits were correlated with drinking and driving, only urgency uniquely contributed to drinking and driving. Indirect effect tests indicated that drinking-and-driving convenience expectancies partially mediated this association as well as that between (lack of) perseverance and drinking and driving. These results remained significant after controlling for alcohol expectancies and other drinking-and-driving cognitions. Conclusions: These findings highlight the importance of distinguishing among impulsivity traits to improve theoretical models of the processes by which personality leads to specific alcohol-related consequences. In addition, results extend previous research by providing evidence for the unique importance of expectancies regarding the convenience of drinking and driving over and above more global alcohol expectancies and other drinking-and-driving cognitions. (J. Stud. Alcohol Drugs, 73, 794–803, 2012)