Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms and Problematic Alcohol Use in College Students: The Moderating Role of Alcohol Protective Behavioral Strategies and Gender


Objective: The present study evaluated the moderating role of alcohol protective behavioral strategy subtypes (alcohol PBS; serious harm reduction, manner of drinking, limiting/stopping drinking) and gender on the relationship between posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and alcohol-related negative consequences. Method: Participants were 2,138 traditional college students (i.e., age between 18 and 25 years old) recruited from 10 universities in the United States who reported drinking in the past month. All participants reported their gender and completed measures of PTSD symptoms, alcohol PBS use, alcohol consumption, and alcohol-related negative consequences through an online survey. Results: Experiencing greater PTSD symptoms was associated with increased alcohol-related negative consequences and all alcohol PBS subtypes were independently associated with fewer alcohol-related negative consequences. Gender had a moderating effect such that the relationship between manner of drinking and alcohol-related negative consequences was weaker among men. Further, we found significant three-way interactions such that the associations between PTSD symptoms and alcohol-related negative consequences were weaker at higher levels of serious harm reduction and limiting/stopping drinking, but only among women. Conclusions: Although alcohol PBS appear beneficial for all college student drinkers, these findings highlight the additional protective value of certain alcohol PBS for college women experiencing PTSD symptoms.


Psychological Science

Keywords and Phrases

Alcohol protective behavioral strategies; Alcohol-related negative consequences; College students; Traumatic stress

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

1942-9681; 1942-969X

Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


File Type





© 2019 American Psychological Association (APA), All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Mar 2019