Name: Sean Alexander

Area of Study: Developmental

In what program are you currently enrolled? PhD

What year of the program are you currently in? 5

Citation in APA format:

Alexander, S. M., Howard, A. L., & Maggs, J. L. (2022). Personality and alcohol use across university: Examining context-dependent pathways towards alcohol problems. Substance Use and Misuse, 57(9), 1450-1461.

Plain language abstract:

College life is characterized by marked increases in alcohol consumption. Neuroticism, a personality trait characterized by emotional instability and negative mood, is associated with alcohol use problems in college and throughout adulthood but paradoxically not consistently associated with elevated alcohol use. This study examined whether students higher in neuroticism may drink the day before stressors, namely tests and assignments. Academic events were chosen as anticipatory stressors with set dates and consequences for failure to perform. Data was taken from a longitudinal study of first-time, first year undergraduates assessing alcohol use across four years of college, with 14-day daily diary bursts each semester. Neuroticism was not associated with drinking behaviours or drinking before an academic event but was associated with greater fourth-year alcohol problems. High neuroticism appears associated with a hazardous trajectory of college alcohol use, but further research into situational factors of alcohol use in high neuroticism is warranted.

How did the idea for this research come about?

I was interested situational factors surrounding alcohol use. University is rife with alcohol use, but most students do not go on to develop alcohol problems. I have thought that situational factors surrounding drinking context, such as stressors and motives, that make drinking situations riskier for some students. When I started at Carleton, Dr. Andrea Howard had access to this longitudinal data set with personality information and daily drinking reports, but also follow up information on alcohol problems. This allowed for any pattern of drinking across college to be associated with later risk. After a literature review of individual difference factors in student drinking, I noticed the repeated finding of neuroticism being associated with increased alcohol use problems but not associated with increased drinking. Something about drinking context for students higher in neuroticism is riskier than for other students. Since students higher in neuroticism are higher in stress reactivity and anticipatory stress, and higher in motives to cope with negative affect, I hypothesized that drinking to cope with stressors reinforced a risky pattern of alcohol use across college.

How did you collect the data for this project?

Data for this study was already collected by Jennifer Maggs at Pennsylvania State University from Fall 2007 to Fall 2011. Eligible participants were invited via mail with envelopes containing a link to a web-based survey, with a pen and cash enclosed. Future web-based surveys for each daily diary burst were sent out via email.

Was the journal you published in the first journal you submitted this paper to?


Why did you choose this journal?

This journal publishes substance use research across multiple substances and age groups, and contains research relevant to our paper.

How many other journals did you submit this paper to before it landed in the journal that eventually published your work?


What was your revision experience?

The initial set of revisions from the first journal submission were negative but quite helpful. There were a few conceptual disagreements, but primarily looking for increased clarity in arguments and limitations. Revisions for the current submission were sometimes difficult but insightful, and each reviewer added something of value to the paper even if I didn’t necessarily agree. The final submission only had one set of revisions, so while the original rejection was disappointing, the reviews definitely helped strengthen the final paper. For other submissions I have had much more negative reviews, so it was a blessing that these reviews were so manageable!

How many rounds of revision did you experience?

Did you need to collect new data to satisfy a reviewer?

How long did it take from first submission to acceptance?
24 months

Was this paper conducted as part of your MA thesis?

Was this research conducted with your supervisor?
Yes, this research was conducted with my thesis supervisor, Dr. Andrea Howard.

Was this research conducted with fellow graduate students in our program?

Was this research conducted with researchers external to Carleton?
Yes, with Dr. Jennifer Maggs.

You can access the article here.