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survey of US drinking habits conducted by the US National Center for Health Statistics in 1988, significant gender differences were found in three areas as pointed out by Dawson and Archer (1992). The first significant difference pertained to the number of male and female current drinkers. Roughly 64% of all men were current drinkers in comparison to 41% of all women. The second and third significant differences concerned the quantity of alcohol consumed. Men were more likely to (a) consume alcohol on a daily basis and (b) be classified as heavy drinkers. Men’s daily average of ethanol intake (17.5 grams per day) was almost twice as high as women’s (8.9 grams per day). Even when an adjustment for body weight was made (females require less ethanol than males to achieve a

similar increase in blood alcohol level), men’s consumption was still 53% greater than women’s. With regards to drinking classification, males were classified substantially more often than females as heavy drinkers (i.e. the number of males who drank five or more drinks a day was 88% greater than the corresponding number of females). Furthermore, as the classification measures became stricter so did the disparity between male and female heavy drinkers increase (i.e., the ratio of male to female heavy drinkers increased by a factor of 3 as the definition of heavy drinker was changed from five drinks or more a day to nine drinks or more a day). Gender as a Moderating Factor of Stress To understand why men and women drink differently requires an understanding of the prevailing

socialization practices (Dohrenwend & Dohrenwend, 1976; Horwitz & White, 1987). According to this sociological view, “women have been socialized to internalize distress, whereas men have been socialized to externalize distress” (Cooper, Russell, Skinner, Frone, & Mudar, 1992; P. 140). Therefore, women tend to cope with stress by utilizing personal (internal) devices such as emotion, rather than impersonal (external) devices such as alcohol, which are used more often by men. In addition, men and women also hold differential expectations about the effects of drinking. Several studies (i.e. Abrams & Wilson, 1979; Sutker, Allain, Brantly, & Randall, 1982; Wilson & Abrams, 1977) have shown that “although pharmacological effects appear to be similarly

stress reducing for both sexes, the belief that alcohol has been consumed may actually increase distress among women” (Cooper et al. , 1992; P. 140). Therefore, it seems plausible that females actually expect to experience some form of distress from drinking as opposed to males’ expectation to experience tension reduction from drinking (Rohsenow, 1983). Differential Coping Styles in Drinking Considerable evidence has been accumulated in support of the notion that certain methods of coping are more likely to be associated with problem drinking than others (Moos, Finney, & Chan, 1981). This has led to the development of social learning theory which postulates that abusive drinkers differ from relatively healthy drinkers in (a) their capacity to effectively cope with

stressors and (b) in their beliefs about drinking (Abrams & Niaura, 1987). In general, two types of coping responses have been shown to predominate in most situations (Folkman & Lazarus, 1980). The first type, problem-focused coping (also known as approach coping), is directed at either solving the presenting problem or altering the source of the stress (Carver, Scheier, & Weintraub 1989). The second type, emotion-focused coping (also known as avoidance coping ), attempts to reduce the unpleasant emotional feelings which accompany the stressor (Carver et al. , 1989). Even though people usually use both methods in response to a given stressor, the former type will tend to predominate when people feel that the situation is changeable, whereas the latter type will tend

to predominate when people appraise the situation as unchangeable (Folkman & Lazarus, 1980). People who predominantly resort to avoidance coping have been shown to display pathological drinking behavior much more than those who utilize approach coping (Cooper, Russell, & George, 1988; Cooper et al. , 1992). Those who typically resort to avoidance coping (a group which consists of up to 25% of all drinkers), report that they do so in order to regulate negative emotions (Cahalan, Cisin, & Crossley, 1969; Mullford & Miller, 1963; Polich & Orvis, 1979). The strongest evidence to support this contention comes from studies which have investigated post-treatment relapse in alcoholics. In three such studies (Marlatt, & Gordon, 1979; Moos et al. , 1981; Moos,