Date of Award

Fall 1998

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Leslie, Lauren

Second Advisor

Berkowitz, Marvin

Third Advisor

Campbell, Todd


The prevalence of alcohol abuse among adolescents has remained high since the mid 1970s; nearly one in three high school seniors report getting drunk at least once in the last month (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 1997) Clinicians and researchers interested in the etiology of adolescent alcohol abuse are offering increasingly complex theoretical frameworks to understand and organize the multiple antecedents of alcohol abuse. This study formally integrated two approaches for the first time. The first approach, Multiple-Risk-Factor Theory, suggests that it is the accumulation of multiple risk factors that leads to alcohol abuse and the accumulation of multiple protective factors that offset alcohol abuse. This approach may be more holistic and 'person-centered' than traditional 'variable-centered' approaches because it emphasized the factor profile of the individual (Gore & Eckenrode, 1994). However, this approach has typically under-represented the importance of cognitive-developmental abilities and fails to consider how individuals think about alcohol abuse. The second approach used in this study had grown out of cognitive-Structural Theory and research on the development of social cognition in particular. Levitt, Selman and Richmond (1991) and others (e.g., Baumrind, 1987) have argued for the importance of understanding the emergence of alcohol abuse in the context of social and cognitive development. Levitt et al.'s (1991) psychosocial theory of risk-taking attempts to understand alcohol abuse from the adolescent's perspective. The central variable in their theory is Personal Meaning, which is believed to develop as a function of risk experience and general cognitive maturity. Personal meaning is defined as the developmental level at which an adolescent anticipates the personalized impact of a risk-taking behavior...



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