The Role of Social Support in Motivating Reductions in Alcohol Use: A Test of Three Models of Social Support in Alcohol-Impaired Drivers

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9 Scopus citations


Background: Social support has been linked to many therapeutic benefits (e.g., treatment retention, reduced posttreatment relapse) for individuals with alcohol use disorder. However, the positive impacts of social support have not been well understood in the context of alcohol-impaired driving. This article examines the role of social support in motivating those with histories of driving while intoxicated (DWI) arrest to reduce alcohol use by testing 3 major models of social support: the Main-Effects model, the Buffering model, and the Optimal Matching model. Methods: One hundred and nineteen participants with histories of DWI arrest were recruited from a correctional treatment facility (n = 59) and the local community (n = 60). Participants completed interviews to assess alcohol consumption, psychiatric/physical conditions, and psychosocial factors associated with drinking behavior (e.g., social support, alcohol-related problems, and motivation to change). Hierarchical regression analyses were conducted to test the 3 models. Additionally, the relative magnitude of the effects of general and recovery-specific social support was compared based on the approach of statistical inference of confidence intervals. Results: Overall social support was positively associated with some motivation to change (i.e., importance of change, confidence in change) among alcohol-impaired drivers, supporting the Main-Effects model. However, the impact of overall social support on motivation to change was not moderated by alcohol-related problems of individuals arrested for DWI, which did not confirm the Buffering model. Last, recovery-specific social support, rather than general social support, contributed to increasing motivation to reduce alcohol use, which supported the Optimal Matching model. Conclusions: These findings highlight the benefits of social support (i.e., increased motivation to change alcohol use) for alcohol-impaired drivers. Regardless of the severity of alcohol-related problems of alcohol-impaired drivers, social support had direct positive impacts on motivation to change. In particular, the results underscore that social support can be more effective when it is matched to the recovery effort of individuals, which is consistent with the Optimal Matching model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)123-134
Number of pages12
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2019


  • Driving Under the Influence
  • Driving While Intoxicated
  • Main-Effects Model
  • Optimal Matching Model
  • Social Support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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