INTERPERSONAL RISK AND PROTECTIVE FACTORS FOR ALCOHOL MISUSE AMONG ARMY RESERVE AND NATIONAL GUARD SOLDIERS
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Background: Alcohol use is common in the military, and is associated with socializing and coping with military stressors. Military research has focused on individual predictors of alcohol use, and research is needed to understand the effects of interpersonal predictors such as support and influence. In relation to alcohol misuse, this dissertation aimed to investigate: (a) the protective effects of deployment-related support, (b) the influence of personnel’s social ties and networks, and (c) the effects of military peers as both protective and risk factors. Methods: Data come from Operation: SAFETY, a study of Army Reserve and National Guard soldiers. Aim 1 used latent profile analysis (LPA) to classify deployment-related support and regression to estimate the association between deployment support and soldiers’ hazardous alcohol use. Aim 2 used egocentric social network data to quantify the associations between social network characteristics and soldiers’ alcohol use. Aim 3 used multilevel modeling to examine associations between social tie and social network characteristics and soldiers’ frequency of drinking with social ties. Results: Aim 1’s LPA indicated a three-profile solution for deployment support, with profiles characterized as High Social Support, Low Social Support, and High Overall Support. Membership in the High Social Support profile was associated with lower likelihood for hazardous alcohol use. Aim 2 showed that social networks with more drinking buddies and ties who were heavy-drinkers were associated with increased soldier alcohol use, and networks with more military peers were protective against alcohol use for deployed soldiers. Aim 3’s multilevel results further indicated that ties who were drinking buddies and ties who were heavy-drinkers were both associated with more frequent social drinking between soldiers and ties; similar findings were observed for social networks with greater proportions of both characteristics. Military-affiliated networks were associated with more frequent social drinking among deployed soldiers. Conclusions: Findings contribute to the understanding of modifiable interpersonal-level factors that may affect the alcohol misuse in the military. Military leaders might use existing programs to emphasize the importance of social support during deployment. Interventions should also focus on leveraging military peer support and alcohol-free social opportunities to reduce soldier alcohol use.