Emotion differentiation and alcohol-related problems: The mediating role of urgency

Noah N. Emery, Jeffrey S. Simons, C. Joseph Clarke, Raluca M. Gaher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Deficits in emotional and behavioral regulation figure prominently in etiological models of alcohol-related problems. This study tests a model linking poor differentiation of emotion to alcohol-related problems via urgency. The sample consisted of 102 undergraduates between the ages 18 and 24 who reported moderate to heavy alcohol consumption. As hypothesized, negative urgency mediated the relationship between negative emotion differentiation and alcohol-related problems. However, contrary to hypothesis, positive urgency was not associated with either positive emotion differentiation or alcohol-related problems and the indirect effect of positive emotion differentiation via positive urgency was not significant. Instead, positive emotion differentiation exhibited a significant direct effect on alcohol-related problems. This study provides an initial examination of connections between specificity in labeling emotions, behavioral disinhibition, and problematic alcohol use. These findings suggest that poor differentiation of negative emotion may foster impulsive behavior when negatively aroused. Whereas, impulsive behavior when positively aroused may reflect heightened sensitivity to positive reinforcement, which may not be related to reflective processes underlying emotion differentiation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1459-1463
Number of pages5
JournalAddictive Behaviors
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Alcohol
  • Alcohol-related problems
  • Emotion
  • Emotion differentiation
  • Urgency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

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