Background: We investigated the joint development between implicit approach bias and early adolescent alcohol use, and examined
whether the link between approach bias and alcohol use was moderated by working memory (WM).
Methods: The current
study used data from a 2-year, 4-wave online sample of 378 Dutch early adolescents (mean age 14.9 years, 64.8% female). First,
using latent growth curve modeling, we examined trajectories of approach bias and alcohol use over time. Second, we examined
relations between baseline approach bias and WM and the development of alcohol use. Third, we examined the joint development
of approach bias and alcohol use. Fourth, we examined whether the nature of this joint development varied for different levels
Results: Unconditional growth curve model analyses indicated that the functional forms of alcohol use and
cognitive bias were best captured by quadratic and linear trajectories, respectively. We found that cognitive bias decreased
over time. We found no significant relations between baseline predictors and observed increases in alcohol use. We found relations
between the intercepts, but not to growth factors, in the joint development of alcohol use and approach bias. WM was not found
to moderate relations between growth in approach bias and alcohol use in this sample.
Conclusions: While we observed
evidence of association between approach bias and alcohol use at baseline, there was no evidence of relations between development
trajectories of the two. These findings replicate prior research demonstrating a role of implicit approach bias in predicting
early adolescent alcohol use but do not demonstrate, in a light drinking early adolescent sample, the importance of interrelations
between changes in approach bias and alcohol use over time, or a moderating role of WM. It is important to consider the potential
consequences of repeated online approach bias assessment (e.g., changes in stimulus valence) when interpreting these results.