Does Relationship-Contingent Self-Esteem Play a Role in the Stress to Impaired Control Pathway to Alcohol-Related Problems in a College Student Sample?

Elena Kalina, Krystina Boyd-Frenkel, Julie A. Patock-Peckham, Lauren Schneidewent, Matthew L. Broussard, Robert F. Leeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Appraisal-Disruption Model (ADM) suggests that individuals use alcohol as a means of dampening negative self-talk. Relationship-contingent self-esteem (RCSE) emerges from validating one’s self-esteem depending on one’s romantic relationship(s) and is known to predict alcohol-related problems. We hypothesized that RCSE indirectly predicts drinking outcomes through the mediating mechanism(s) of stress and impaired control over alcohol (IC; drinking to excess beyond one’s own intentions). We fit a multiple-group structural equation model with self-report survey data from 479 college students. We used a 20,000 bootstrap technique to examine possible mediated pathways. Consistent with evolutionary theory, our model was moderated by sex: more variance in alcohol-related problems was explained for women (R2 = 0.479) than for men (R2 = 0.280). RCSE was directly linked to more stress. Furthermore, higher levels of RCSE were indirectly linked to more IC through increased stress, and in turn, more heavy episodic drinking and alcohol-related problems for both men and women. Consistent with the ADM, those with higher levels of RCSE experienced more stress and, in turn, more IC and subsequent adverse alcohol outcomes. Thus, therapists targeting alcohol use disorders (AUDs) may wish to determine if their client’s self-esteem changes dramatically based on their moment-to-moment appraisal of their intimate relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number185
JournalBehavioral Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2023


  • alcohol-related problems
  • evolutionary theory
  • impaired control over alcohol
  • relationship-contingent self-esteem
  • sex differences
  • stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Development
  • Genetics
  • Psychology(all)
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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