INDIANAPOLIS— A theoretical paper with lead author Tamika Zapolski, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology in the School of Science at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), examines a paradox in African American drinking. African Americans report initiation to drinking at an older age, lower rates of use and lower levels of use in nearly all age groups. Nonetheless, the group encounters higher levels of problems related to alcohol when compared to European Americans. The paper is featured this month by the American Psychological Association on the Office of Ethnic Minority Affairs' African American Heritage Month website.
"So much research has compared drinking habits and effects between African Americans and European Americans, but no one is truly investigating the reasons," Zapolski said. "Understanding the reasons for these differences can ultimately improve diagnoses and intervention plans."
Zapolski examined all current research on African American drinking to build a cohesive theory pulling together genetic, historical and sociocultural factors. The paper aimed to explain why African Americans are more likely to abstain or drink less compared to European Americans; why those who do drink encounter more negative consequences; and which African American population is at the greatest risk for alcoholism or other alcohol problems.
"As a whole, the research shows the strength of the community," Zapolski said. "African Americans are drinking less and the problems are not due to high drinking, but the sanctioning outside and within the community. Still, there are subgroups who are facing problems, and continued research can help address these issues."
Additional authors on the paper were Sarah L. Pedersen, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh; Denis M. McCarthy, Ph.D., University of Missouri; and Gregory T. Smith, Ph.D., University of Kentucky. The research was supported in part by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
The School of Science at IUPUI is committed to excellence in teaching, research and service in the biological, physical, behavioral and mathematical sciences. The School is dedicated to being a leading resource for interdisciplinary research and science education in support of Indiana's effort to expand and diversify its economy.
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