Social anxiety and alcohol problems: the roles of perceived descriptive and injunctive peer norms

Julia D. Buckner, Department of Psychology, Louisiana State University, 236 Audubon Hall, Baton Rouge, LA 70808, USA.
Anthony H. Ecker
Steven L. Proctor


Although people with higher social anxiety (HSA) appear particularly vulnerable to alcohol-related problems it remains unclear why people with HSA experience such problems. One possibility is that HSA people's drinking behavior is influenced by their beliefs about others' drinking (i.e., descriptive norms) and/or others' approval of drinking (i.e., injunctive norms). The current study investigated the relationship between social anxiety, alcohol-related problems, drinking frequency and quantity, and descriptive and injunctive norms. The sample consisted of current drinkers with clinically elevated social anxiety (HSA; n=86) or lower social anxiety (LSA; n=86). Injunctive norms moderated the relationship between social anxiety group status and alcohol-related problems such that HSA participants with higher injunctive norms reported the most alcohol-related problems. Descriptive norms moderated the relationship between social anxiety and drinking quantity such that among participants with higher descriptive norms, LSA participants drank more than HSA participants.