Posttraumatic Stress, Coping Flexibility, and Risky Drinking Among Trauma-Exposed Male and Female College Students: The Mediating Effect of Delay of Gratification
Background: The co-occurence of posttraumatic stress (PTS) and risky drinking has been demonstrated in diverse populations, including college students. However, the mechanisms underlying this co-occurrence, as well as the protective factors that may reduce risky drinking among trauma-exposed college students have yet to be fully understood in the literature. Objectives: The present study builds upon self-regulation theories and previous empirical work to determine whether the effects of PTS and coping flexibility on risky drinking were mediated by delay of gratification among trauma-exposed college students. In addition, the potential moderating effect of gender on these relationships was examined. Methods: Participants included 624 trauma-exposed college students (68.4% female) attending a public university in the southeast region of the United States. Data were collected through an online survey. The hypothesized model was examined using a multigroup structural equation modeling approach. Results: As hypothesized, PTS had a significant, positive indirect effect on risky drinking through delay of gratification; however, the effect of PTS on delay of gratification was stronger for males than for females. Results also indicated that the indirect effect of coping flexibility on risky drinking through delay of gratification was significant and negative for males and females. Conclusions/Importance: The findings of this study suggest that delay of gratification might be an important mechanism underlying the co-occurrence of PTS and risky drinking. In addition, our results highlight the potential benefits of coping flexibility for college students coping with PTS.
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