“Do grown-ups become happy when they drink?” Alcohol expectancies among preschoolers. Academic Article uri icon


  • Despite ample evidence on risky drinking in adolescence and beyond, little is known about early alcohol-related precursors. The present study investigates whether preschool children are already familiar with the emotional changes that are likely to occur when people drink alcohol, that is, their alcohol expectancies. Based on the circumplex model of affect (CMA; Russell, 1980), expectancies (12 items for alcohol and 12 for soft drinks) were assessed using the Berkeley Puppet Interview (BPI; Measelle, Ablow, Cowan, & Cowan, 1998) among 198 3- to 6-year-olds (52.5% girls) in French-speaking Switzerland who had some knowledge of alcoholic beverages. Confirmatory factor analysis confirmed the 4-dimensional factor structure (arousal-positive, arousal-negative, sedation-positive, sedation-negative) as assumed by the CMA for alcohol expectancies but not for soft drink expectancies. For the former, intraclass correlation coefficients showed an excellent interrater reliability and a satisfactory test-retest reliability. A paired-sample t test revealed that girls in particular endorsed positive alcohol expectancies more frequently than negative expectancies. There was no significant age difference in any expectancy dimension. This study indicates that alcohol expectancies already exist in preschoolers and that, even at this early age, expectancies can be classified according to the dimensions of valence and activation. This is important because alcohol expectancies have been found to be important predictors of early alcohol initiation and the development of risky drinking patterns later in life. (PsycINFO Database Record

publication date

  • 2017