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Repressive coping style and substance use among college students.

The repressive coping style (self-reported low anxiety and high defensiveness) is associated with the development of serious diseases (e.g., heart failure), as indicated in many studies. However, few studies have explored the relationships between the repressive coping style and substance use. An earlier study (Weinberger & Bartholomew, 1996) found negative correlations between repressive coping and alcohol use, and the present study replicated the alcohol findings, found similar results pertinent to smoking, and examined repressors' perceptions of the health consequences of their substance use. Anxiety and defensive measures were administered to 443 undergraduates to classify their coping style as Repressive (53 men and 71 women) or Nonrepressive (109 men and 210 women). The scales to assess alcohol use and smoking dependence and the scale to examine participants' perceived threat of harm from their own and others' substance use were used. As predicted, repressors reported less substance use. Although all participants perceived that they were less likely to experience harmful consequences of drinking compared to other drinkers, repressors evidenced a greater bias in that direction.

In a review of literature written by Sigmund Freud (cited in Eagle, 2000), the concept of repression is summarized as a mental state in which actual and threatened impulsive ideas are hidden from conscious awareness in order to avoid feeling anxious. Individuals who have true low trait anxiety and individuals who suppress their anxiety both report a low level of anxiety. To distinguish these two populations, Weinberger, Schwartz, and Davidson (1979) suggested the use of an anxiety measure-for example, a short form of Taylor Manifest Anxiety Scale (Bendig, 1956)-and a defensiveness measure, such as the Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale (Crowne & Marlowe, 1960). Individuals with true low anxiety score low on both anxiety and defensiveness, whereas repressors self-report low anxiety and high defensiveness and, on physiological measures, exhibit high arousal (Weinberger, 1990).

Repressors tend to focus their attention away from both negative life events and their negative psychological/somatic reactions to the events (Denollet, 1991). When asked of their life experiences, repressors are likely to report more positive events and fewer negative events as compared to nonrepressors (Myers & Brewin, 1996). Repressors exhibit "unrealistic optimism and overly positive self-evaluation" (Myers & Brewin, p. 443). However, repressors are not aware of their psychological patterns (Denollet, 1991), and they tend to be more self-deceptive than other-deceptive. The repressive coping style is not considered to be a state, but rather a trait exhibited throughout life (Myers, 2000).

Repressors show a larger discrepancy between self-reported anxiety level and physiological arousal level compared to both low anxious and high anxious participants. In studies of college students exposed to phase association tasks (Asendorpf & Scherer, 1983; Weinberger et al., 1979), repressors had elevated heart rates and skin resistance responses (e.g., facial-muscle tension), despite lower levels of self-reported anxiety. These results indicate that repressors were more physically stressed than nonrepressors. Further, endorphinergic dysregulation is related to the coping style. In a study of 80 participants, Jamner and Leigh (1999) found a relationship between defensiveness and B-endorphin levels, such that more defensive individuals exhibited higher levels of B-endorphin.

The unconscious suppression of physical discomfort has potential health consequences. The repressive coping style contains both "short-time benefit and long-time harm" (Eagle, 2000, p. 165). In spite of their positive responses to health-related questionnaires (Myers & Vetere, 1997), when facing potentially serious physical symptoms, repressors use self-deception and denial (Werhun & Cox, 1999). Repressors avoid recognizing that the high level of physical responses and the associated tension in their body may be one of the causes of some diseases, such as hypertension and impaired immune systems (Eagle, 2000). Moreover, there are studies that suggest that cardiovascular diseases, asthma, and cancer (e.g., Jensen, 1987) are related to this way of coping (e.g., Burns, Evon, & Strain-Saloum, 1999; Contrada, Czarnecki, & Pan, 1997).

Substance Use Among College Students

Substance use and abuse is common among American college students. Alcohol use and abuse is especially common; it is used by about 90% of college students at least once a year. Heavy alcohol use is also prevalent, and is associated with serious, acute problems (Prendergast, 1994). In a study of 443 college students, about half of the male and one-third of the female participants were found to be within the range for risk (drinking more than six standard drinks per occasion; Williams & Ricciardelli, 1996). Williams and Ricciardelli suggested that about 15% of their participants were alcohol dependent.

Alcohol constitutes one of the greatest health risks to college students (Prentice & Miller, 1993). In a study of 391 young adult patients brought to a hospital emergency room, about half of the patients were alcohol positive, indicating that they were legally intoxicated at the time of their accident. Among the emergency admissions, almost 50% of the patients were potential alcoholics, according to their scores on an alcoholism measure. Surprisingly, 20% reported that they had sought treatment for alcohol dependence (Rivara et al., 1992).

Although the prevalence of smoking has decreased in the past 20 years, trends reported among young people differ across studies. In one study, 40% of all college students reportedly smoked cigarettes at least once during the previous 12 months (Pierce et al., 1991). According to Emmons and Abraham (1998), data obtained from the National Health Interview Survey suggested that the rate of smoking among college students within the previous 30 days was about 30%. In Emmons and Abraham's own data, the past 30-day smoking prevalence was 22.3%, and interestingly, 25% of the college students identified themselves as former smokers. Schorling, Gutgesell, Klas, Smith, and Keller (1994) reported a similar number, 23.5%, as a 1-year smoking prevalence. Moreover, in a study of 863 college students, Gray (1993) found that 9.0% were regular smokers, 9.2% were occasional smokers, 33.4% were experienced smokers (i.e., who had smoked some in the past but no longer smoked cigarettes), and 41.4% had never smoked.

Youthful experimentation with smoking has the potential to lead to a lifelong unhealthy habit (Gray & Donatelle, 1990; Martin, Clifford, & Clapper, 1992; Schorling et al., 1994). A wide range of chronic diseases (e.g., cancer and cardiovascular disease) are considered to be mainly associated with smoking (Naquin & Gilbert, 1996). Although Gray (1993) found that there was no significant difference between cigarette smokers and nonsmokers in their use of smokeless tobacco, alcohol, or marijuana, cigarette smokers used other illicit substances (e.g., cocaine and crack) more regularly than did nonsmokers.

Repressive Coping Style and Substance Use

A small number of studies have explored the relationship between the repressive coping style and substance use. In a study of 148 participants ranging in age from 17 to 50 years, Furnham and Traynar (1999) categorized participants as repressors and nonrepressors (high anxious, low anxious, and defensive high anxious), according to their level of defensiveness and anxiety. In comparison to nonrepressors, repressors reported more positive/healthy and less negative/unhealthy coping styles. Alcohol and drug use were considered to be part of the unhealthy coping style.

Weinberger and Schwartz (1990) studied 275 college students who were classified by their level of distress and self-restraint. Distress was defined as "individuals' tendency to feel dissatisfied with themselves and their ability to achieve desired outcomes" (p. 382), and self-restraint as "suppression of egoistic desires in the interest of long-term goals and relations with others" (p. 382). As compared to other groups, repressors reported that they drank less frequently (i.e., an occasion of "more than 2 glasses of wine or 2 beers within a day" was rated between once a month to twice a year compared to once a week to once a month in other groups). Weinberger and Bartholomew (1996) found that repressors who reported low distress and high restraint had the lowest frequency of alcohol use, quantity per occasion, and frequency of intoxication. Repressors were least likely to report that they used alcohol to generate positive affect, reduce negative affect, and facilitate social interaction. Further, repressors reported the fewest social/emotional and acute problems. Peer ratings validated the repressors' self-report.

Given the serious health effects related to the repressive coping style, alcohol use and smoking, it appears likely that relationships exist among these three factors. The discrepancy between repressors' self-reported positive coping style, denial of substance abuse (i.e., alcohol and cigarette use), and their overall proneness to disease is an intriguing area to explore. The present study sought to address four main issues:

1. We wished to replicate aspects of Weinberger and Bartholomew's 1996 study on alcohol using different measures. Given the findings of Weinberger and Bartholomew, we anticipated that (a) repressors would be less likely to report alcohol use than nonrepressors and (b) repressors who reported alcohol use would report more modest patterns of use as compared to nonrepressive drinkers.

2. We were interested in determining whether tobacco use was similar to alcohol use in its relation to repressor status. Specifically, we anticipated that repressors would be less likely to report cigarette smoking than nonrepressors.

3. We were interested in exploring differences between repressors' and nonrepressors' perceptions of the health consequences of alcohol and tobacco use. In general, we anticipated that repressors would perceive alcohol and cigarette use as less harmful, to both self and others, than would nonrepressors.

4. We were interested in potential discrepancies in the perceived risks of alcohol and tobacco use as a function of whether participants were rating themselves (as a user of alcohol and/or tobacco) or others (who used alcohol and/or tobacco). We anticipated that repressors would exhibit a greater discrepancy between their perceptions of personal risk and their perceptions of the risks facing others who use alcohol and/or tobacco.

METHOD

Participants

The participants were 446 (163 males, 282 females, 1 unspecified; M age = 19.1, SD = 2.64) undergraduate students. Most of the participants were Caucasian (n = 336; 75%), although other ethnic backgrounds were also represented (99 African Americans, 2 Asian Indians, 1 Asian American, 1 Asian Pacific, 1 American Korean, 1 African American/Asian, 1 Lebanese, 1 Hindu, and 1 Hispanic; 2 unspecified).

Procedure and Materials

Questionnaires were administered to groups of students in a classroom setting. After completion of informed consent procedures, participants received packets containing a brief demographic questionnaire and, in random order, the following scales:

Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale (SDS). The SDS is a 33-item self-report measure of the individual's need for social approval (Crowne & Marlowe, 1960). It is also a measure of defensiveness, with higher scores associated with greater defensiveness (Myers, 2000). Validity and reliability of the scale have been evaluated by many researchers (e.g., Ballard, 1992; Gump, Baker, & Samuel, 2000).

Short Form of Taylor Manifest Anxiety Scale (TMAS). The short form of the Taylor Manifest Anxiety Scale (TMAS) is widely used (Hoyt & Magoon, 1953; Bendig, 1956). The short version consists of 20 items and is as reliable as the whole form (Weinberger et al., 1979). Because of its elimination of low internal consistency items found in the whole form, its accepted validity, and quick administration, use of the Bendig short form has been recommended (Myers & Brewin, 1996).

Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT). The AUDIT was developed by the World Health Organization for a 10-country brief intervention study (Saunders, Aasland, Babor, & de la Fuente, 1993). Internal reliability coefficients of .80 (Fleming, Barry, & MacDonald, 1991) and .85 (Barry & Fleming, 1993) have been found for this 10-item scale.

MacAndrew Alcoholism Scale-Revised (MAC-R). The MAC-R is a 49-item measure comprised of items from the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2 (MMPI-2; Butcher, Dahlstrom, Graham, Tellegen, & Kaemmer, 1989). The MAC-R is widely used and recognized to be one of the most effective measures of substance abuse (e.g., Aaronson, Dent, & Kline, 1996; Rouse, Butcher & Miller, 1999; Wong & Besett, 1999).

Short Form of the Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test (SMAST). The Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test (MAST; Selzer, 1971) focuses on symptoms and negative consequences of alcohol use. The short-form, composed of 13 self-rated items, is most widely used (Selzer, Vinokur, & van Rooijen, 1975). In a study of three different groups (i.e., college students, psychiatric patients, people with alcohol dependence) the SMAST yielded an internal consistency alpha coefficient value of .93 (Hays & Revetto, 1992).

Fagerstrom Tolerance Questionnaire (FTQ). The FTQ consists of eight questions. It was originally developed to measure physiological tolerance to nicotine (Fagerstrom, 1978), and it is the most widely used brief measure of nicotine dependence (e.g., Colby, Tiffany, Shiffman, & Niaura, 2000; Kawakami, Takatsuka, Shimizu, & Takai, 1998).

Perceptions of Health Consequences Scale (PHC). The PHC was developed by the authors for the present study. The 10-item scale asks participants to evaluate the health consequences of their own and others' use of tobacco and alcohol products. The first two items estimate the probability (from 0% to 100%) of health damage in drinkers and smokers; the remaining items required responses on a 7-point Likert-type scale. Items of the scale follow:

1. What percentage of all drinkers would you predict to experience negative health consequences from their drinking?

2. What percentage of all smokers would you predict to experience negative health consequences from their smoking?

3. How likely is it that other drinkers will be harmed by their drinking?

4. How likely is it that other smokers will be harmed by their smoking?

5. How likely is it that you will be harmed by other's drinking?

6. How likely is it that you will be harmed by other's smoking in the future?

7. How likely is it that you will be harmed by your drinking?

8. How likely is it that you will suffer future harm from your smoking now?

9. When you drink, how much do you usually enjoy drinking?

10. When you smoke, how much do you usually enjoy smoking?

RESULTS

Consistent with the suggestion of King and his colleagues (King, Taylor, Albright, & Haskell, 1990), median splits were used to identify high and low scores on the SDS (Md = 16, M = 16.27, SD = 5.76) and the TMAS (Md = 7, M = 7.61, SD = 4.23). Repressors were defined by low scores on the TMAS (i.e., low anxiety) and high scores on the SDS (high defensiveness); 53 male and 71 female participants were classified as repressors. The remaining participants (109 men and 210 women) were classified as nonrepressors. Mean SDS scores for repressor and nonrepressor groups were 21.36 (SD = 3.62) and 14.28 (SD = 5.19), respectively. Mean TMAS scores for repressors and nonrepressors were 3.89 (SD = 1.82) and 9.07 (SD = 4.00), respectively.

Because previous research indicated that gender and substance use and abuse are interrelated (Prendergast, 1994; Waldeck & Miller, 1997), chi-square statistics for gender and coping styles were computed. There were no significant relationships between gender and repressor status (i.e., repressors and nonrepressors).

AUDIT

The data of 437 participants were used for analyses, including the AUDIT, because of incomplete data from 6 participants. A MANOVA examined the effects of gender and participants' repressor status on the total scores of the AUDIT and the MAC-R. Using the AUDIT scores, significant main effects were found for gender, F(2, 432) = 51.11, p < .001, and for repressor status, F(2, 432) = 10.14, p < .001. There was no significant gender x repressor status interaction. The follow-up univariate ANOVAs indicated that gender was statistically significant, F(1, 433) = 15.81, p < .001. Men (M = 7.98, SD = 6.93) had significantly higher scores than women (M = 5.61, SD = 5.35). Repressor status was also statistically significant, F(1, 433) = 18.36, p < .001, such that repressors (M = 4.63, SD = 4.51) had significantly lower scores than nonrepressors (M = 7.19, SD = 6.45).

A chi-square test of independence was calculated comparing the two categories, Alcohol Dependent (a total score of 8 or above) and Non-Alcohol Dependent (a total score less than 8) for gender and for repressor status. Men (50%) were classified as Alcohol Dependent more often than women (31.3%), ?2(1, N = 440) = 15.17, p < .001. Repressors (73.39%) were classified as Non-Alcohol Dependent more often than the nonrepressors (57.46%), ?2(1, N = 439) = 9.58, p = .002. MAC-R

The scores of 437 participants were analyzed. In the MANOVA, significant main effects were found for gender, F(2, 432) = 51.11, p < .001, and repressive status, F(2, 432) = 10.14, p < .001. The gender x coping styles interaction effect was not significant. In the ANOVAs, men (M = 23.06, SD = 4.16) had significantly higher scores than women (M =18.70, SD = 3.74), F(1, 433) = 100.15, p < .001. Repressors (M = 19.84, SD = 3.64) had significantly lower MAC-R scores than nonrepressors (M = 20.47, SD = 4.70), F(1, 433) = 5.91, p < .015.

The MAC-R total scores were used to assign participants to one of three categories: Not Likely to Be Alcohol Abusive (a score of 23 or below), Suggestive of Alcohol Abusive, But Maybe False Positive (a score from 24 to below 28); and Alcohol Abusive (a score of 28 or above). Compared to women, the scores of men were more often Suggestive of Alcohol Abusive (men, 26.54%; women, 9.22%) and Alcohol Abusive (men, 4.81%; women, 2.13%), ?2 (2, N = 444) = 56.31, p < .001. No significant relationships were found for the repress- or/nonrepressor category.

SMAST

Of the participants, 335 were self-described drinkers. The data of 321 participants were examined for the analyses that used SMAST scores. Fourteen participants did not respond to certain items on the questionnaires (i.e., either the items of the SMAST or the drinking-related items of the PHC in the following section). Significant effects were found in the MANOVA [gender, F(3, 315) = 9.03, p < .001; repressor status, F(3, 315) = 8.14, p < .001]. There was no significant main effect for the gender x repressor status interaction. The ANOVAs indicated that men (M = 1.80, SD = 2.06) had significantly higher scores than women (M = 1.17, SD = 1.21), F(1, 317) = 6.01, p = .015. Repressors (M = 0.94, SD = 1.04) had significantly lower scores than nonrepressors (M = 1.57, SD = 1.74), F(1, 317) = 14.71, p < .001.

SMAST total scores were used to place participants into one of three categories: Social Drinker (a score of 1 or below), Maybe Problem Drinker (a score of 2), and Possible Alcoholic (a score of 3 or above). Compared to women, men were classified as Social Drinkers (men, 48.82%; women, 62.80%) and Maybe Problem Drinkers (men, 23.62%; women, 25.12%) less often and Possible Alcoholic (men, 27.56%; women, 12.08%) more often, ?2(2, N = 334) = 13.25, p = .001. Repressors were categorized as Social Drinkers (66.67%) and Maybe Problem Drinkers (25.29%) more often and Possible Alcoholics (8.04%) less often than were nonrepressors (54.07%, 24.39%, and 21.54%, respectively), ?2 (2, N = 333) = 8.30, p = .016. When drinkers and nondrinkers were compared, no significant differences were noted for gender or for repressor status.

FTQ

Of the participants, 109 reported that they were smokers. The data of 4 of the smokers were excluded because they failed to answer all items; data of 105 smokers were analyzed. No significant main effects were found for gender, repressive status, or interaction between gender and repressor status. However, repressors (86.29%) were more likely to be nonsmokers than nonrepressors (71.11%) as expected, ?2 (1, N = 439) = 11.05, p = .001. Further, different cut-off scores for the FTQ were used to categorize the participants into Nicotine Dependent and Non-nicotine Dependent. No relationships were found for gender or repressor status.

PHC: Alcohol use

PHC Items 1, 3, and 5. The data of 438 participants were used for this set of analyses, because 5 participants failed to complete the PHC questionnaire. Significant main effects were detected in the MANOVAs for both gender [F(10, 425) = 3.54, p < .001] and repressor status [F(10, 425) = 2.96, p = .001] when PHC items 1, 3, and 5 were used as the dependent variables. The gender x repressor status interaction was not significant. In the ANOVAs, there were no significant simple effects associated with PHC items 1 or 3. For PHC item 5, women (M = 4.31, SD = 1.54) perceived that they were likely to be harmed by others' drinking more than men (M = 3.86, SD = 1.41), F(1, 434) = 6.27, p = .013. No significant association was found between repressor status and PHC item 5.

PHC Items 7 and 9. The data of the 321 participants who reported at least occasional alcohol drinking were used to analyze the impact of gender and the repressor status on the PHC items 7 and 9. In the MANOVAs, significant main effects were found for both gender and repressor status [F (3, 315) = 9.03 and 8.14, p < .001, respectively). The gender x repressor status interaction was not significant. No significant relationships were found for gender for item 7. In contrast, repressors (M = 2.74, SD = 1.52) produced significantly lower item 7 scores than nonrepressors (M = 3.38, SD = 1.64), F (1, 317) = 9.94, p = .002. For PHC item 9, men (M = 5.14, SD = 1.32) reported greater enjoyment of drinking than women (M = 4.34, SD = 1.60), F (1, 317) = 22.4, p < .001. Repressors reported significantly less enjoyment of drinking (M = 4.27, SD = 1.56) compared to nonrepressors (M = 4.78, SD = 1.52; F(1, 317) = 8.26, p = .004) on item 9.

Further, one-way ANOVAs were used to examine differences between repressors and nonrepressors categorized as Alcohol Abusive by the MAC-R. In these analyses, the Suggestive of Alcohol Abusive and Alcohol Abusive categories were combined. For PHC item 7, significant relationships were found (F [1, 95] = 5.70, p = .019). Compared to nonrepressive alcohol abusive participants (n = 76, M = 3.33, SD = 2.00), repressive alcohol abusive participants (n = 22, M = 2.18, SD = 1.94) had significantly lower scores on item 7. This suggests that repressive alcohol abusers were less likely to think they would be harmed by their own drinking than nonrepressive alcohol abusers.

For PHC item 9, similar results were found [F (1, 95) = 4.31, p = .040]. Repressive alcohol abusers (M = 3.18, SD = 2.58) had significantly lower scores than nonrepressive alcohol abusers (M = 4.35, SD = 2.23); the former reported less enjoyment of drinking than the latter. When categories of the AUDIT (i.e., Alcohol Dependent) and the SMAST (i.e., combined Problem Drinkers and Possible Alcoholics) were used as dependent variables, no significant relationships were found.

Comparisons between perceptions of self-harm and harm to others. To compare perceptions of the risk of self-harm as well as the risk of harm to others, difference scores were computed between PHC items 3 and 7 (i.e., scores of PHC item 7 were subtracted from scores of PHC 3). The difference scores of the 325 participants who reported that they were drinkers served as the dependent measure in a 2 (gender) x 2 (repressor status) ANOVA. Significant main effects were found for both gender [F(1, 321) = 5.43, p = .020] and repressor status [F(1, 321) = 6.95, p = .009]. The gender x repressor status interaction was not significant. Repressors (M = 2.05, SD = 1.87) had significantly higher scores than nonrepressors (M = 1.44, SD = 1.95), F (1, 321). Repressors perceived that others would be harmed by others' drinking more than that they themselves would be harmed by their own drinking to a larger extent than did nonrepressors. The same trend was found between the genders, such that women (M = 1.78, SD = 2.04) perceived a greater discrepancy than did men (M = 1.29, SD = 1.74).

PHC: Tobacco use

PHC Items 2, 4, and 6. Using the data of 438 participants in the MANOVAs, significant main effects were found for the relationships between PHC items 2, 4, and 6 and for both gender (F [10, 425] = 3.54, p < .001) and repressor status (F[10, 425] = 2.96, p = .001).

No significant relationships were found between PHC item 2 and gender and repressor status, or the gender x repressor status interaction. For PHC item 4, women (M = 5.82, SD = 1.14) thought that others would be harmed by others' smoking more than did men (M = 5.60, SD = 1.32), F(1, 434) = 7.31, p = .007. No relationship was found for PHC item 4 and repressor status. For PHC item 6, women (M = 4.74, SD = 1.62) perceived that they were more likely to be harmed by others' smoking than men (M = 3.90, SD = 1.65), F(1, 434) = 21.59, p < .001. No significant simple effects were found for repressor status.

PHC Items 8 and 10. For analyses of PHC items 8 and 10, only the data of the 105 smokers were used for the MANOVA. With repressor status as an independent variable, no significant main effects were found for gender, repressor status, or the interaction between gender and repressor status.

Comparison between perceptions of self-harm and harm to others. To compare perceptions of the risk of self-harm and harm to others that results from smoking, the differences between the scores of PHC item 8 ("Likelihood that I will be harmed by my smoking") scores were subtracted from PHC item 4 ("Likelihood that other smokers will be harmed by their smoking") scores. Using the data of the 101 self-reported smokers, a 2 (gender) X 2 (repressor status) ANOVA was conducted with the PHC difference score serving as the dependent variable. No statistically significant effects were found for gender, repressor status, or the interaction between gender and repressor status.

DISCUSSION

The prevalence of both drinking and smoking among the participants was similar to the rates found in previous research. Approximately 70% of the participants were at least occasional drinkers in the present study compared to a range of 79%-97% in other studies (e.g., Prendergast, 1994). The prevalence of smokers, approximately 25% in the present study, was similar to the 20%-40% reported in other research (e.g., Gray, 1993). Repressors were less likely to report alcohol use than non- repressors, which is consistent with the findings of previous studies (e.g., Weinberger & Bartholomew, 1996). Although infrequent use of both alcohol and cigarettes was indicated for repressors, no significant relationships were found for Nicotine Dependent and Nondependent categories of smoking. This might be the result of a relatively small number of participants (n = 109).

Concerning their perceptions of health consequences, repressors were less likely to expect self-harm by their own drinking and less likely to report enjoyment from alcohol use. All participants tended to believe that they were less likely to experience harmful consequences of drinking compared to other drinkers. However, repressors evidenced a greater bias (i.e., believing that other drinkers were at a substantially higher risk). As for smoking, no significant differences were found for the discrepancies between self-harm and harm toward others. It is noteworthy that the present study is one of a few studies that found repressive substance abusers. Approximately 20% of the alcohol dependents were repressors.

Alcohol use

Repressors were categorized as Nonalcohol Dependent on the AUDIT and Social Drinkers (i.e., maybe a problem drinker) or Nonalcoholics on the SMAST more often than were nonrepressors. These findings are consistent with previous studies indicating that repressors are less likely to report drinking alcohol (Furnham & Traynar, 1999; Weinberger & Bartholomew, 1996; Weinberger & Schwartz, 1990).

Although the total scores of the MAC-R were significantly lower for repressors than nonrepressors, the groups did not differ significantly in their rates of being categorized as Alcohol Abusive. The Alcohol Abusive category of the MAC-R may not actually reflect participants' alcohol abusive characteristics, but "substance abusive tendencies" in general, as previous studies mentioned (Aaronson et al., 1996; Rouse et al., 1999; Wong & Besett, 1999). Interestingly, the results indicated that although repressors reported a lower likelihood of abusing alcohol, they were no more likely to report abstaining from alcohol than other participants.

Most importantly, approximately 20% of all alcohol dependents and 6% of the entire participant pool were categorized as repressive alcohol dependents. Repressive alcohol dependents reported that they did not enjoy drinking as much as nonrepressive alcohol dependent participants. However, even though they did not report pleasant feelings about drinking, the repressive alcohol dependents did consume alcohol more than did ordinary social drinkers, as the alcoholism questionnaire revealed.

Tobacco use

When smoking status was examined (i.e., smokers [respondents to the questionnaire] and nonsmokers [nonrespondents]), repressors were less likely to smoke than nonrepressors. Hines, Fretz, and Nollen (1998) found that both smokers and nonsmokers viewed smoking as unhealthy, unattractive, and undesirable. The high social desirability of repressors might contribute to their reluctance to smoke.

Perceptions of health consequences

Among participants who reported at least occasional alcohol use, repressors perceived that they were less likely to be harmed by their own drinking than were nonrepressors. These repressors also reported less enjoyment of alcohol than did nonrepressors. Considering the fact that repressors did not ingest alcohol as often as nonrepressors, perhaps repressors had less reason to worry about self-harm from drinking as well as less enjoyment of drinking. Nevertheless, and interestingly, when only the data of the alcohol dependent group were analyzed, repressors still showed the same tendency. This suggests that repressive alcohol dependents believed that they were less likely to be harmed by their own drinking than were nonrepressive alcohol dependents, despite the fact that both groups probably engaged in problematic drinking behaviors. These findings are consistent with the results of previous studies that note repressors' self-deception and denial of negative health consequences (Eagle, 2000; Myers & Vetere, 1997; Werhun & Cox, 1999). Further, both repressors and nonrepressors exhibited a tendency to view drinking as generally more harmful to others than to themselves. Repressors exhibited a more exaggerated discrepancy between perceptions of other-risk and self-risk. Repressors are likely to believe that they, as individuals, have a substantially lower risk of harm than do others who engage in the same behavior.

Limitations of current student and directions for future research

There are several limitations in the present study. Use of only undergraduates in this study lowers the generalizability of the findings. It should be noted that differences among races were not analyzed in this study. Also, because negative health consequences are usually exhibited among the aged, an accurate picture of substance-related illnesses may not be depicted in this study. When considering long-term health hazards, more extended study is needed. Use of self-reports might be a limitation as well. However, because Weinberger and Bartholomew (1996) validated the repressors' infrequent use of alcohol by peer review, the validity of the responses on each questionnaire in the current study can be assumed. Despite the representative rates (i.e., 25%) of smoking, only a small number of smokers, approximately 100 participants, were surveyed in this study. This low number may have contributed to nonsignificant findings for the categories of the FTQ.

There are many negative consequences of drinking and smoking. Heavy alcohol consumption results in not only many deaths and illnesses (Prentice & Miller, 1993; Rivara et al., 1992), but also disasters in society such as fatal automobile accidents, murders, spouse battering, and child abuse (Steele, 1990). Nicotine dependence also causes a wide range of chronic illnesses (e.g., cancer and cardiovascular disease; Naquin & Gilbert, 1996). Because habits developed in youth have a potential to become lifelong habits (Gray & Donatelle, 1990; Martin, Clifford, & Clapper, 1992; Schorling et al., 1994), evaluating college students' substance abuse is crucial.

The combination of substance abuse and repressive coping style, which is also strongly related to life-threatening illnesses, may be especially problematic. The present study is one of only a few studies that has focused on relationships between repressive coping style, smoking, drinking behaviors, and perceptions of health consequences related to substance abuse. Further examination of young participants who have both repressive and substance abusive tendencies is important to prevent personal and social hardships. Further research is needed to examine why repressors do not reportedly enjoy drinking as much as other social drinkers, and to explore the relationships between substance enjoyment and possible guilt. The reasons why repressors, especially repressive substance abusers, choose to consume not only alcohol and cigarettes, but also illegal drugs, could be an especially intriguing area of future study.

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Author info: Correspondence should be sent to: Dr. Charles L. Spirrison at Department of Psychology, P.O. Drawer 6161, Mississippi State University, Starkville, MS 39762-6161 or cls4@ra.msstate.edu. North American Journal of Psychology, 2006, Vol. 8, No. 1, 99-114. @NAJP

Miyoko Shirachi and Charles L. Spirrison

Mississippi State University
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Date:Mar 1, 2006
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