This study contributes to the scarce research on U.S. college students studying abroad by documenting general and sexual negative alcohol-related risks and factors associated with such risk. The manner of drinking (quantity vs. frequency), predeparture expectations surrounding alcohol use while abroad, culture-related social anxiety, and perceived disparity between home and host cultures differentially predicted consequences abroad. The findings include important implications for student affairs professionals in developing study abroad–specific interventions and resources to maintain student well-being while abroad.
One effective event-level index that can assist in identifying risky intoxication levels among college students is blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Despite widespread exposure to BAC information, doubt exists as to whether American college students can accurately estimate their own BAC level or drinking behaviors while intoxicated. This study assessed whether students can accurately guesstimate their BAC level (gBAC) and drinking behaviors used to estimate BAC (eBAC) while drinking in social college settings
Participants (N = 225; 56.4% male) consisted of emerging adults attending either a two- or four-year college who had at least one alcoholic drink within the two hours prior to assessment. Participants were approached at night when returning from parties and/or alcohol-serving establishments. They completed an initial questionnaire, gave a breath sample to assess breath alcohol content (BrAC), and then completed an on-line follow-up questionnaire within 48 hours of baseline assessment.
Participants at lower levels of intoxication tended to slightly overestimate their BAC level, while those at higher levels tended to markedly underestimate their BAC level. In addition, discrepancies among BrAC, gBAC, and eBAC were found as a function of gender. Lastly, differences in eBAC scores did not differ when drinking behaviors were obtained via in vivo versus retrospective methodology.
Findings suggest that college students generally have difficulty assessing their BAC level and drinking behaviors while drinking in the college social setting. This study offers particular insight for research relying on estimates of BAC as well as interventions utilizing BAC education.
As little research has examined factors influencing increased and heavy drinking behavior among American sojourners abroad, this study was designed to examine how acculturation orientations (i.e., separation versus assimilation), host country per capita drinking rates, and perceptions about the drinking behavior among other sojourners and natives in the host country predicted alcohol risk abroad. A sample of 216 American college students completing study abroad programs completed a pre-abroad questionnaire to document their pre-abroad drinking levels, followed by a post-return questionnaire to assess drinking while abroad, acculturation orientations and perceived norms of drinking behavior within the foreign environment. A dichotomous variable was created to compare United States (U.S.) per capita drinking rates with those of the host country. Hierarchical repeated-measures ANOVAs examined the changes in drinking from pre-abroad to abroad levels. Participants studying in countries with higher drinking rates than the U.S. and those with higher perceptions about the drinking behavior in the country increased their drinking to a greater extent. Those with higher separation acculturation orientations and greater perceptions drank at heavier levels while abroad. Participants with a greater assimilation orientation and higher perceptions about native drinking, as well as those with a greater separation orientation and higher perceptions about other students’ alcohol use drank the heaviest while abroad. These findings have implications for future preventive work with American students and other sojourning groups to promote pre-abroad knowledge of more accurate drinking norms and greater engagement in the culture to potentially prevent increased and heavier drinking.
Alcohol; Sojourners; Acculturation; Perceived norms; Study abroad
The current study examined whether drinking and/or presence in the college social environment led to augmented positive alcohol expectancies among college students (N = 225). Participants were approached during popular drinking nights as they exited events at which alcohol was consumed or in front of their residence as they returned home. Participants completed a brief questionnaire that included an assessment of demographics, breath alcohol concentration (BrAC), and positive expectancies. Within 48 hours of baseline assessment, participants received via email a follow-up survey that re-assessed positive expectancies while sober. Positive sexual expectancies were more strongly endorsed while drinking in the college social environment for both males and females, while males also reported heightened liquid courage expectancies. In addition, positive expectancies were more strongly endorsed at higher doses of alcohol for males but not females. These findings suggest that interventions which seek to prevent alcohol abuse by targeting alcohol expectancies may wish to challenge positive expectancies in naturalistic college social settings.
Alcohol; Expectancies; College Students; Intervention; Blood Alcohol Concentration; Drinking
Driving after drinking (DAD) is a serious public health concern found to be more common among college students than those of other age groups or same-aged non-college peers. The current study examined potential predictors of DAD among a dual-site sample of 3,753 (65% female, 58% Caucasian) college students. Results showed that 19.1% of respondents had driven after 3 or more drinks and 8.6% had driven after 5 or more drinks in the past three months. A logistic regression model showed that male status, fraternity or sorority affiliation, family history of alcohol abuse, medium or heavy drinking (as compared to light drinking), more approving self-attitudes towards DAD, and alcohol expectancies for sexual enhancement and risk/aggression, were independently associated with driving after drinking over and above covariates. These results extend the current understanding of this high risk drinking behavior in collegiate populations and provide implications for preventive strategies. Findings indicate that in addition to targeting at-risk subgroups, valuable directions for DAD-related interventions may include focusing on lowering both self-approval of DAD and alcohol-related expectancies, particularly those associated with risk/aggression and sexuality.
alcohol; driving; drinking; injunctive norms; expectancies
Although peer norms have been found to be a particularly strong correlate of alcohol consumption by college students, research suggests that parents also have a significant impact on the behaviors of their children, even after their child has departed for college. The current study investigated the effect of disparity between the perceived approval of alcohol (injunctive norms) of parents and closest friends on college student drinking and consequences, and explored gender differences in this effect. It found that injunctive disparity was significantly correlated with individual drinking and related consequences over and above the strongest known predictor variables of gender, same-sex descriptive norms and drinks per week. Males experienced significantly greater disparity between the beliefs of their parents and their peers, which was related increased drinking and a greater sense of connection to their same-sex peer group. Among females, greater perceived disparity was associated with greater alcohol-related consequences. These results suggest that it may not be the individual attitudes of parents and peers, but rather the difference between them, that is impacting behavior. Interventions that reduce perceived disparity, either by correcting the over-estimation of peer’s drinking, or by encouraging parents to stay involved in their children’s social lives by promoting socialization with peers whose attitudes more closely match their own, may be beneficial in reducing risky college drinking.
alcohol; peers; parents; injunctive norms; college students; gender
College students who violate campus alcohol policies (adjudicated students) are at high risk for experiencing negative alcohol-related consequences and for undermining campus life. Further, college women may be especially at risk due to differential intoxication effects and sexual consequences experienced mainly by female students. Research on interventions for adjudicated students, especially adjudicated females, has been limited. One hundred and fifteen college women who received a sanction for violating campus alcohol policies participated in the study. The two hour group intervention focused on female-specific reasons for drinking and included decisional balance, goal setting and other exercises. Participants completed follow-up surveys for 12 weeks following the intervention and answered questions regarding alcohol consumption and alcohol-related negative consequences. Findings support the use of an MI-based intervention to reduce both alcohol consumption and consequences among adjudicated females. Specifically, alcohol use was reduced by 29.9% and negative consequences were reduced by 35.87% from pre-intervention to 3-month follow up. Further, the intervention appeared to successfully initiate change in the heaviest drinkers, as women who drank at risky levels reduced alcohol consumption to a greater extent than women who drank at moderate levels.
adjudicated college students; motivational interviewing; female; college drinking
The current research examines whether self-consciousness subscales have prognostic value in the relationship between perceived norms and drinking and if that differs among college men and women. Results indicate that self-consciousness moderates gender differences in the relationship between perceived social norms and drinking. A strong positive relationship was found between perceived norms (descriptive and injunctive) and drinking for men relative to women and this was more pronounced among individuals who were lower in public self-consciousness. Similarly, the relationship between perceived injunctive norms and drinking was significantly stronger among men than women and this was more pronounced among individuals who were higher in private self-consciousness or social anxiety. These results highlight the important influence of social factors in salient peer reference groups. This is promising information for future research attempting to identify useful indicators of candidates who would most benefit from social norms interventions. This also underscores the relevance of future norms based interventions using self-consciousness as a potential moderator of intervention efficacy.
self-consciousness; social norms; alcohol use; campus organizations; college students
Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug among college students and has the potential for various negative outcomes. Perceptions of what constitutes typical approval/acceptability of a reference group (i.e. injunctive social norms) have been shown to have strong utility as predictors of health-risk behaviors in the college context, yet this construct remains significantly understudied for marijuana use despite its potential for use in social norms-based interventions. The current research evaluated individuals’ marijuana approval level and their perceptions of others’ marijuana approval level (i.e. injunctive norms) for various reference groups (typical student on campus, one’s close friends, one’s parents) as a function of individual user status (abstainers, experimenters, occasional users, regular users). A diverse sample of 3553 college students from two universities completed an online survey. Among all user status groups, individual approval yielded mean scores paralleling that of perceived close friends’ approval and all groups were relatively uniform in their perception of typical students’ approval. Higher levels of marijuana use tended to produce higher endorsements of individual approval, perceived close friends’ approval, and perceived parental approval. Among occasional and regular users, there were no differences between one’s own approval level for use and the perceptions of close friends’ approval, nor did they think the typical student was more approving than themselves. Abstainers and experimenters, however, perceived typical students and close friends to have more permissive attitudes than themselves. Implications and future directions for research regarding the role of injunctive marijuana use norms in the development of social norms intervention are discussed.
Marijuana use; injunctive norms; reference group; social norms intervention
This study compares the natural drinking patterns of family history positive and family history negative women during their first semester of college, a transitional period known to coincide with considerable alcohol-related risks.
Seventy-two incoming undergraduate females, approximately half of whom reported a family history of alcohol misuse, completed initial questionnaires as well as Timeline Followback assessments. In addition, participants completed five successive weeks of online behavioral diaries measuring three categories of prospective alcohol consumption: total drinks, maximum drinks, and heavy episodic drinking events. Repeated measures ANCOVA models, controlling for prior alcohol consumption, examined participants’ drinking behavior.
Over the course of the five assessed weeks, first semester females with a genetic predisposition to alcohol problems were found to consume significantly more total drinks (p < .05), maximum drinks (p < .05), and were more likely to drink heavily (p < .05) than family history negative peers.
Findings highlight increased alcohol-related risks faced by incoming first-year college females with a reported family history of problematic drinking and, thus, emphasize the need for early interventions targeted toward this at-risk group.
Due to the emergence of research literature examining the prepartying behavior of college students, the present study examines students’ varying drinking rates, blood alcohol levels (BALs), and alcohol-related consequences during two drinking events – one involving prepartying and one devoid of prepartying. Two-hundred and thirty-eight student drinkers completed an online drinking assessment detailing their two most recent drinking occasions involving and not involving prepartying. Participants responded to a series of questions regarding quantities consumed on the drinking day and occurrence of alcohol-related consequences. While men did not differ in drinking or estimated BALs, between the two drinking days, female participants drank significantly more drinks and reached higher BALs on the prepartying drinking day. Both males and females reported increased experience of alcohol-related consequences on the prepartying drinking day. In analyzing the prepartying drinking day specifically, we found that while men drink more alcohol during prepartying, but both men and women reached similar BALs during the event. Also, mount consumed during prepartying related to further drinking throughout the evening.. It appears that prepartying may influence women to reach comparable levels of intoxication and alcohol-related consequences as their male peers. Quick drinking during prepartying may raise BAC levels and lead to alcohol-related consequences particularly for female students.
This study examined whether a self-reported family history of alcohol abuse (FH+) moderated the effects of a female-specific group motivational enhancement intervention with first-year college women. First-year college women (N= 287) completed an initial questionnaire and attended an intervention (n=161) or control (n=126) group session, of which 118 reported FH+. Repeated measures ANCOVA models were estimated to investigate whether the effectiveness of the intervention varied as a function of one’s reported family history of alcohol abuse. Results revealed that family history of alcohol abuse moderated intervention efficacy. Although the intervention was effective in producing less risky drinking relative to controls, among those participants who received the intervention, FH+ women drank less across five weeks of follow-up than FH− women. The current findings provide preliminary support for the differential effectiveness of motivational enhancement interventions with FH+ women. Keywords: college women, intervention, alcohol abuse, family history, motivational interviewing
As with other heavier drinking groups, heavier drinking American college students may self-select into study abroad programs with specific intentions to use alcohol in the foreign environment. This cross-sectional study used a sample of 2144 students (mean age = 20.00, SD = 1.47) to explore differences in alcohol use and related negative consequences among (1) students intending to study abroad while in college, (2) students not intending to study abroad, and (3) students reporting prior study abroad participation. Results revealed that participants with no intention to study abroad drank less and experienced fewer alcohol-related consequences than participants intending to study abroad. In addition, students reporting prior completion of study abroad programs drank more and reported more hazardous alcohol use than those not intending to study abroad. Ethnic and sex differences existed; with White students, males, and females intending to study abroad and non-White students who previously completed study abroad programs demonstrating the most risk. These findings provide empirical support that study abroad students may be a heavier drinking subgroup necessitating intervention prior to beginning programs abroad.
alcohol; college students; study abroad; alcohol-related consequences; ethnicity
Previous research has shown that social norms are among the strongest predictors of college student drinking. Among college students, perceiving that “others” drink heavier relative to themselves has been strongly and consistently associated with heavier drinking. Research has also shown that the more specifically “others” are defined, the stronger the association with one’s own drinking. The present research evaluated whether group identification as defined by feeling closer to specific groups moderates the associations between perceived drinking norms in the group and one’s own drinking. Participants included 3752 (61% Female) students who completed online assessments of their perceived drinking norms for four groups of students on their campus as well as identification with each group and participants’ own drinking behavior. Results indicated that greater identification with same-sex students, same-race students, and same-Greek-status students were associated with stronger relationships between perceived drinking norms in the specific groups and own drinking.
social norms; alcohol; identification; social identity; Drinking; Group Identity
Studies examining family history of alcohol abuse among college students are not only conflicting, but have suffered various limitations. The current report investigates family history of alcohol abuse (FH+) and its relationship with alcohol expectancies, consumption, and consequences. In the current study, 3753 student participants (35% FH+), completed online assessments. Compared to FH−same-sex peers, FH+ males and FH+ females endorsed greater overall positive expectancies, consumed more drinks per week, and experienced more alcohol-related negative consequences. Further, FH+ females evaluated the negative effects of alcohol to be substantially worse than FH− females. An ANCOVA, controlling for age, GPA, race, and alcohol expectancies, resulted in family history main effects on both drinking and consequences. An interaction also emerged between gender and family history, such that FH+ males were especially vulnerable to high levels of alcohol consumption. Results reveal the scope of FH+ individuals in the college environment and the increased risk for these students, particularly male FH+ students, suggesting a need for researchers and college health personnel to focus attention and resources on this issue.
family history; alcohol use; college students; gender differences; alcohol expectancies; consequences
Harm reduction approaches may benefit from research extending the exploration of predictors of alcohol use per se to those components most directly related to alcohol-related harm. This investigation evaluated the relationship between perceived injunctive norms of alcohol use (level of approval of drinking behaviors in specific situations) and the experience of alcohol-related consequences as a function of typical student reference groups at increasing levels of similarity to the respondent: based on race, gender, Greek status, and combinations of these dimensions, as well as parents, close friends, and the students' own attitudes. Participants were 3753 students (61% female) from two campuses who completed an online survey. Preliminary analyses determined that there were no differences in the relationship between perceived injunctive norms and consequences across the eight student groups of varying specificity, thus all eight levels were combined into one variable of perceived student injunctive norms. However, the relationship between this variable and consequences was weaker than the perceived attitudes of more proximal referents (parents, close friends, as well as their own personal attitudes). Subsequent analyses predicting consequences while controlling for demographic variables and drinking level, revealed that perceived injunctive norms for students, parents, and close friends as well as personal attitudes each significantly predicted consequences. Results suggest an important role for perceived injunctive norms in the experiencing of consequences over and above the amount of consumption and point to types of injunctive norms feedback that might form effective interventions (i.e., incorporating close friend and parent feedback as well as general student feedback).
The current study documents and examines college students’ perceptions of the drinking behavior of peers from varying class years (i.e., freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior). A sample of 522 college students estimated the drinking behavior of peers within their own specific class year, as well as across the three other class years. Participants in each class year overestimated the drinking of students in their own class year as well as the drinking of students in the three other class years. These within class year-specific perceived norms associated with drinking for freshmen, sophomores, and juniors. Poisson regression analyses revealed freshmen and juniors were more impacted by their class year-specific perceived norms than students in other class years, while students in other class years were more impacted by sophomore-specific perceived norms than sophomores. These findings suggest that perceptions of class year-specific drinking norms can be impactful on individual drinking rates within one’s own class year; however, perceived drinking norms of other class years may also associate with actual drinking for students. Future research is needed to establish the longitudinal development of class year-specific perceived norms and to explore the impact of providing students with actual drinking norms of students in their own class years and of students in other class years during interventions and prevention programs.
college students; alcohol; perceived norms; peer influence
The Rutgers Alcohol Problem Index (RAPI), a popular measure of alcohol-related problems in adolescents, varies with many theoretically-relevant measures of individual differences, including sex. The sex differences in RAPI scores fit many models of alcohol problems but could also arise from biased items. In addition, a short form could increase the scale’s utility. The current study examined RAPI scores, an additional inventory of problem drinking, and measures of alcohol consumption in over 2,000 college student drinkers. Analyses revealed items that functioned differentially for men and women. Dropping these items created a shorter scale with almost identical psychometric properties but less potential for bias. Correlations with drinking habits and drinking problems were the same as those for the full scale, and the size of the effect for the difference between men and women’s responses remained essentially the same. These results confirm previous work using different analytic approaches, and suggest that a short form of the RAPI could prove helpful in future research. In addition, these data suggest that analyses of differential item functioning in other scales can reveal important information about the measurement of drug problems.
Alcohol; problems; differential item function; bias; drinking; gender differences
Greek-affiliated college students have been found to drink more heavily and frequently than other students. With female student drinking on the rise over the past decade, sorority women may be at particular risk for heavy consumption patterns. The current study is the first to apply the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) to examine drinking patterns among a sorority-only sample. Two-hundred and forty-seven sorority members completed questionnaires measuring TPB variables of attitudes, norms, perceived behavioral control, and intentions, with drinking behaviors measured one month later. Latent structural equation modeling examined the pathways of the TPB model. Intentions to drink mediated the relationship between attitudes and norms on drinking behavior. Subjective norms predicted intentions to drink more than attitudes or perceived behavioral control. Perceived behavioral control did not predict intentions but did predict drinking behaviors. Interpretation and suggestions from these findings are discussed.
Theory of Planned Behavior; sorority members; female students; college drinking; intentions
The Relational Health Indices (RHI) is a relatively new measure that assesses the strength of relationships. It has been found that relational health has a protective factor for women, such that it enhances positive experiences and limits negative ones. The current study is the first to use the RHI to examine the effect of relational health on alcohol consumption and alcohol consequences. First year college women were given questionnaires assessing relational health, drinking motives, and alcohol use in their first few months at a mid-sized, private university. Due to the social nature of college settings, it was predicted that relational health would moderate the relationship between motives and alcohol consumption. Further, due to the protective factor of relational health, it was predicted that relational health would attenuate the relationship between drinking and negative consequences. These hypotheses were supported. Relational health, moderated the relationship between both social and coping drinking motives and drinking, such that women with strong relational health towards their peers and community who also had high social and coping motives, drank more than those with weaker relationships. Paradoxically, relational health also moderated the relationship between drinking and consequences such that heavy drinking women with strong relational health experienced fewer negative consequences than women with weaker relational health. Results indicate that although relational health is associated with an increase in alcohol consumption, it may also serve as a protective factor for alcohol-related negative consequences. Future research and interventions may seek to de-link the relational health-drinking connection in the college student environment.
Alcohol Use; Alcohol Consequences; Relational Health; Drinking Motives; College Students; Women