Misperceptions of peer drinking norms have been found to be strongly associated with individual drinking behavior, especially for proximal reference groups such as same-sex friends. Less studied are the effects of perceived preferences from the opposite sex on alcohol use; that is, the behaviors an individual believe the opposite sex prefers from them. Research suggests that these perceived “reflective” normative preferences may be particularly salient among college women, who may drink in pursuit of intimate relationships and positive attention from male peers. Heterosexual undergraduate students from two universities participated in this project. Females answered questions regarding the amount of alcohol they believe a typical male would like his female friends, dates, or romantic partners to drink. Males answered the same questions, stating their actual preferences. Results showed that females overestimate the amount of alcohol males want their female friends, dating partners, and sexual partners to drink, and that this misperception was associated with their drinking behavior, even after controlling for perceived same-sex norms. These results suggest that reflective normative feedback may offer a powerful new tool for female-targeted interventions.
gender; college students; alcohol; social norms; personalized normative feedback
This research evaluated the efficacy of a live and interactive group-specific normative feedback intervention designed to correct misperceptions of alcohol-related group norms and subsequently reduce drinking behavior. Campus organizations (N = 20) containing 1,162 college students were randomly assigned to intervention or assessment-only control conditions. Participants in the intervention condition attended an intervention during their organization’s regular standing meeting. Data were gathered in vivo using computerized handheld keypads into which participants entered personal responses to a series of alcohol-related questions assessing perceptions of normative group behavior as well as actual individual behavior. These data were then immediately presented in graphical form to illustrate discrepancies between perceived and actual behavioral group norms. Results indicated that compared with the control group, the intervention group reduced drinking behavior and misperceptions of group norms at 1-month and 2-month follow-ups. Changes in perceived norms mediated the reductions in drinking. Results demonstrate the effectiveness of a novel, technologically advanced, group-based, brief alcohol intervention that can be implemented with entire groups at relatively low cost.
normative feedback; misperceptions; intervention; alcohol behavior; handheld keypads
Alcohol consumption among college students has become an increasing problem that requires attention from college administrators, staff, and researchers. Despite the physiological differences between men and women, college women are drinking at increasingly risky rates, placing them at increased risk for negative consequences. The current study tested a group motivational enhancement approach to the prevention of heavy drinking among 1st-year college women. Using a randomized design, the authors assigned participants either to a group that received a single-session motivational enhancement intervention to reduce risky drinking that focused partly on women’s specific reasons for drinking (n =126) or to an assessment-only control group (n =94). Results indicated that, relative to the control group participants, intervention participants drank fewer drinks per week, drank fewer drinks at peak consumption events, and had fewer alcohol-related consequences over a 10-week follow-up. Further, the intervention, which targeted women’s reasons for drinking, was more effective in reducing consumption for participants with high social and enhancement motivations for drinking.
college drinking; first-year women; motivational enhancement; reasons for drinking
This study used content analysis techniques to explore 221 first-year college women’s perceptions of female peers’ reasons (i.e., normative perceptions) for hooking up. Data on personal participation in hooking up were also collected. The well-established Drinking Motives Questionnaire (Cooper, 1994) was used as a framework for coding positive (enhancement or social) and negative (coping or conformity) normative hookup motivations. Participants most commonly indicated that enhancement reasons motivated peers’ hookup behaviors (69.7%). Coping (23.5%), external (21.7%), social (19.5%), and conformity (16.3%) motives were cited less frequently. Furthermore, women who had hooked up since matriculating into college (61.5%, n = 136) were significantly more likely to state that their female peers hook up for enhancement reasons (a positive motive), but they were significantly less likely to perceive that typical female peers hook up for coping or conformity reasons (negative motives) (ps < .001). Findings indicate not only that college women uphold overwhelmingly positive perceptions for peers’ hooking up, but there appears to be a strong relationship between college women’s own hooking up participation and the positive versus negative attributions they ascribe to hooking up among their peers. This study extends the understanding of college women’s perceptions and potential influences of hooking up and provides implications for harm reduction efforts.
Hooking up; normative perceptions; hookup motives; first-year college women
The present study examined risk factors related to “blacking out” (e.g., temporary periods of memory loss during drinking) during preparty drinking events (i.e., pregaming, predrinking). Participants were students from two universities on the West Coast who reported past month prepartying (N = 2,546) in online surveys administered in the fall of 2008. Among these students, 25% (n = 636) reported blacking out during at least one occasion in which they prepartied in the past month. A logistic regression model underscored that Greek student affiliation, family history of alcohol abuse, frequency of prepartying, and both playing drinking games and consuming shots of liquor while prepartying increased the likelihood of blacking out. Limitations and implications for future research and collegiate prevention strategies are discussed.
alcohol; prepartying; pregaming; alcohol-induced; blackout; college students
Multi-component parent-based interventions (PBIs) provide a promising avenue for targeting alcohol use and related consequences in college students. Parents of college-aged children can have a significant influence on their children’s alcohol use decisions. However, parents tend to underestimate their own child’s alcohol use and overestimate other similar parents’ approval of student drinking. These misperceptions could have important implications for parents’ own attitudes and alcohol-related communication with their student. Targeting these misperceptions through normative feedback could help promote greater and more in-depth alcohol-related communication. The present study examines the potential efficacy of web-based alcohol-related normative feedback for parents of college students.
A sample of 144 parents of college students received web-based normative feedback about students’ alcohol use and approval, as well as other same-college parents’ alcohol approval. Parents completed measures of perceived student alcohol use, student alcohol approval, other-parent alcohol approval, and intentions to discuss alcohol use both pre- and post-normative feedback.
Post-feedback, parents reported stronger intentions to talk to their student about alcohol, were less confident in their knowledge of their students’ alcohol use, and believed that their student drank in greater quantity and more frequently than pre-feedback. Parents also perceived other parents to be less approving of alcohol use after viewing normative feedback.
These findings provide preliminary support for the use of web-based normative feedback for parents of college students. Given these promising results, further research developing and testing this approach merits attention.
Normative feedback; Parent-based intervention; College drinking; Alcohol use
This study examined the effectiveness of a single-session group motivational enhancement alcohol intervention on adjudicated male college students. Over two sequential academic years, 230 students sanctioned by the university for alcohol-related infractions attended a 60- to 75-minute group intervention. The intervention consisted of a timeline followback, social norms education, decisional balance for behavioral change, blood alcohol content (BAC) information, expectancy challenge, and generation of behavioral goals. Participants were followed weekly for three months and showed reductions in drinking (29%) and alcohol-related consequences (32%) at three-month follow-up. The intervention was successful in reducing drinking for both first-year students and upperclassmen, with reductions appearing to be a function of the intervention and not the citation itself. Furthermore, a post hoc control condition revealed that those participants randomly assigned to the intervention group condition reduced drinking (19%) and alcohol-related consequences (44%) more than participants in the control condition over one month. These results provide continued evidence of the effectiveness of group motivational enhancement interventions with adjudicated male college students.
adjudicated college students; alcohol consequences; group intervention; motivational interviewing
The current study uses a within-subjects randomized design with the Timeline Followback (TLFB) method administered in groups or to individuals to determine the equivalence of these methods.
One hundred and four male and female college students who reported drinking at least once in the past 3 months completed the TLFB during a one-on-one interview, as well as in a group setting days apart. The two administrations were counterbalanced among the participants. Drinking variables assessed were drinking days, average drinks, total drinks, and maximum drinks consumed both during a 3-month (90 days) and a 1-month (30 days) period.
Repeated measures analyses revealed no differences within subjects between the individual TLFB and the group TLFB on any of the four assessed drinking variables in the past 3 months and the past 1 month. Pearson’s correlation coefficients revealed strong and significant correlations between the two administration styles. Heavy episodic drinking behavior was similar across administration styles as well. No differences between administration styles were consistent regardless of which administration was received first.
The study suggests that the group TLFB yields similarly accurate results to the previously validated individual TLFB. The group-administered TLFB could be used in clinical and research settings as an efficient means of collecting information from large numbers of individuals.
In the collegiate context, misperceptions of student drinking norms are among the most salient predictors of heavy drinking, Despite overall overestimations of peer alcohol use, misperceptions of context-specific behaviors have been infrequently studied. The present study examines students' perceptions of the high-risk behaviors of prepartying and drinking games and investigates the relationship between perceived and actual behaviors.
A sample of 524 college students completed an online assessment of actual and perceived alcohol use related to prepartying and drinking games. Quantity and frequency of overall drinking, prepartying, and drinking games were assessed for perceptions of all students at the university, as well as for male and female students separately. Questions also assessed participants' overall drinking, prepartying, and drinking game behaviors.
Participants significantly overestimated the prepartying and drinking game behaviors of all students, male students, and female students at their university. For men, perceptions of same-sex prepartying quantity and drinking game frequency and quantity were associated with actual behavior. For women, perceptions of both same-sex and other-sex prepartying quantity were associated with actual behavior.
These findings provide preliminary support for the association between context-specific perceived norms and actual prepartying and drinking game behaviors. Addressing these same-sex and opposite-sex norms during interventions may help students reduce their own engagement in these risky behaviors
This study examines the relationship between sexual experience and various drinking measures in 550 incoming first-year college females. During this transition period, sexually experienced participants reported stronger alcohol expectancies and endorsed higher drinking motives, and drank more frequently and in greater quantities than sexually inexperienced participants. Sexual status was also a significant predictor of alcohol-related nonsexual consequences, over and above amount consumed. Furthermore, controlling for drinking, sexual status moderated the relationship between coping motives and consequences. Among women who endorsed strong coping motives for drinking, sexual experience was linked to greater nonsexual alcohol-related consequences. Implications for prevention and intervention are discussed.
alcohol; alcohol-related consequences; college females; college transitions; drinking motives; sexual experience
The present study is the first to examine the moderating effects of mental and social health status in the relationship between protective behavioral strategies utilized to reduce high-risk drinking (e.g., alternating alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks or avoiding drinking games) and alcohol outcomes (drinking variables and alcohol-related negative consequences) among first-year college females (N = 128). Findings revealed that protective behaviors were particularly effective in reducing both alcohol consumption and related risks among participants reporting lower mental health as compared to higher mental health. Further, participants with higher social health who utilized protective behaviors consumed significantly fewer maximum drinks per occasion than did peers who also employed protective behaviors but reported lower social health. Explanation of findings and implications for campus intervention initiatives are discussed.
The current study examined hooking up experiences through event-level analyses, including the connections involving alcohol use, the extent of physical contact, and postevaluations of the hookup event. Participants were 828 college students (67.0% female). Of students who reported hooking up sometime within the past year (54.8%), chi-square analyses revealed that they were more likely to have been drinking when they met their partners the night of the hookup. Females who were drinking beforehand and females who met their partners that night were more likely to feel discontent with their hookup decisions. Among participants who consumed alcohol prior to their last hookup, a notable 30.7% of females and 27.9% of males indicated that they would likely not have hooked up with their partners had alcohol not been involved. Further, 34.4% of females and 27.9% of males indicated that they would not have gone as far physically if they had not been drinking. Among participants who reported both drinking beforehand and hooking up with unfamiliar partners, greater number of drinks consumed was associated with more advanced sexual behaviors. The current findings highlight the potential risks associated with alcohol use in the hooking up culture.
Problematic drinking among college students remains a national issue with large percentages of college students reporting heavy episodic or binge drinking (Wechsler, Dowdall, Davenport, & Castillo, 1995) and experiencing severe alcohol-related consequences ranging from poor academic performance, to sexual assault, vandalism, and even death (Hingson, Heeren, Winter, & Wechsler, 2005; Wechsler et al., 2002). According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA, 2002), the first 6 weeks on a college campus are critical to first-year student success. However, during these first weeks many students initiate heavy drinking that may interfere with their ability to adapt to campus life, and patterns of drinking established during these first weeks persist throughout college (Schulenberg et al., 2001). Approximately one third of first-year students fail to enroll for their second year due to difficulties with the transition to college (Upcraft, 1995). Drinking may compromise successful negotiation of the transition into college and therefore jeopardize overall collegiate success. Therefore, the ability to identify specific students as they enter college who may develop problematic drinking patterns and related negative consequences would allow student affairs personnel to more effectively design and target risk-reduction programs and interventions.
The present study examined the effectiveness of the 2-week period currently used in the categorization of heavy episodic drinking among college students. Two-week drinker-type labels included the following: nonbinge drinker, binge drinker, and frequent binge drinker.
Three samples of college student drinkers (104 volunteers, 283 adjudicated students, and 238 freshmen male students) completed the 3-month Timeline Followback assessment of drinking. Drinking behavior during the last 2 weeks of the month before the study was compared with drinking behavior during the first 2 weeks of the same month to compare behavior and resulting labels during both 2-week periods.
Inconsistencies existed in drinker-type labels during the first 2 weeks of the month and the last 2 weeks of the month for all three samples. Between 40% and 50% of participants in the three samples were classified as a different drinker type across the month. Nonbinge drinkers experienced a wide range of alcohol-related problems, and much variation existed among the frequent-binge-drinker label.
The results suggest that the current definition needs to be modified to accurately identify risky-drinking college students. Expanding the assessment window past 2 weeks of behavior, as well as developing different classification schemes, might categorize risky drinkers more accurately.
Reflective opposite sex norms are behavior that an individual believes the opposite sex prefers them to do. The current study extends research on this recently introduced construct by examining estimates and influences of reflective norms on drinking in a large high-risk heterosexual sample of male and female college students from two universities. Both gender and Greek-affiliation served as potential statistical moderators of the reflective norms and drinking relationship. All participants (N = 1790; 57% female) answered questions regarding the amount of alcohol they believe members of the opposite sex would like their opposite sex friends, dates, and sexual partners to drink. Participants also answered questions regarding their actual preferences for drinking levels in each of these three relationship categories. Overall, women overestimated how much men prefer their female friends and potential sexual partners to drink, whereas men overestimated how much women prefer their sexual partners to drink. Greek-affiliated males demonstrated higher reflective norms than non-Greek males across all relationship categories, and for dating partners, only Greek-affiliated males misperceived women’s actual preferences. Among women however, there were no differences between reflective norms estimates or the degree of misperception as a function of Greek status. Most importantly, over and above perceived same-sex social norms, higher perceived reflective norms tended to account for greater variance in alcohol consumption for Greeks (vs. non-Greeks) and males (vs. females), particularly within the friend and sexual partner contexts. The findings highlight that potential benefits might arise if existing normative feedback interventions were augmented with reflective normative feedback designed to target the discrepancy between perceived and actual drinking preferences of the opposite sex.
reflective norms; college students; alcohol; fraternity and sorority; social norms; normative feedback
While affiliation with Greek fraternities/sororities and intercollegiate athletic teams is associated with heavier drinking (Meilman et al., 1999), few studies have compared reasons for drinking among these groups. A sample of 1,541 students, identifying as either Greeks or athletes, completed an online survey. Athletes were significantly higher than Greeks on conformity reason for drinking. Tests of independent correlations indicated the magnitude of the past behavior to intention link was considerably stronger for Greeks. Greeks experienced significantly more social problems from drinking. Several group by gender ANOVA models found significant main effects with highest drinking rates, usually among Greek males, and lowest among female athletes. Understanding these specific group differences informs recommendations for group-specific and tailored educational interventions, which are discussed.
college drinking; intentions; Greek affiliation; college student athletes
The authors examined the relationship between global sleep quality and alcohol risk, including the extent to which global sleep quality moderated the relationship between alcohol use and drinking-related consequences. Global sleep quality was measured using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) and alcohol-related consequences were assessed using the Rutgers Alcohol Problem Index (RAPI). The sample consisted of 261 college students (61.3% female, 58.2% Caucasian) who completed online surveys. Using a four-step hierarchical multiple regression model, global sleep quality was found to predict alcohol consequences, over and above assessed covariates (demographics and weekly drinking). Further, global sleep quality emerged as a strong moderator in the drinking-consequences relationship such that among heavier drinkers, those with poorer global sleep quality experienced significantly greater alcohol-related harm. Campus health education and alcohol interventions may be adapted to address the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, both in terms of healthful sleeping and drinking behaviors, which appear to play a strong synergistic role in alcohol-related risk.
Alcohol; Sleep; College students; Health education
Prepartying and drinking game playing are associated with excessive alcohol consumption and alcohol-related negative consequences in college populations; however, research exploring the prevalence of these high risk drinking contexts among high school students, and how such engagement may impact both high school and subsequent college drinking risk, is lacking. The current study, which is the first study to assess prepartying during high school, examined how engaging in either prepartying or drinking game playing during high school was associated with risky high school drinking as well asalcohol use and consequences during the transitional first month of college. The study involved 477 first-year college students, the majority of whom were 18 years old (94%), female (66%), and Caucasian (59%). Prepartying was found to be highly prevalent in high school (45%). Further, students who prepartied or played drinking games during high school drank significantly more in high school than students who did not engage in these high risk activities. Finally, prepartying and game playing during high school were associated with greater collegiate alcohol consumption (controlling for high school drinking) and consequences (controlling for both high school and college drinking). This study establishes prepartying and drinking games as common high risk activities among both high school and incoming first-year college students, and addresses implications for prevention and targeted interventions.
Prepartying; Drinking games; High school; College students; Alcohol
The personality trait of impulsivity is predictive of heavy drinking and consequences among college students. The current study examined how impulsivity—measured via positive urgency, negative urgency, and sensation seeking—and a person's beliefs about the role alcohol plays in the college experience relate to drinking and consequences in a sample of 470 college students (mean age = 19 years, 61.3% female, 59.8% white). In support of hypotheses, sensation seeking independently predicted greater drinking, and both positive and negative urgency predicted greater experience of alcohol-related negative consequences after controlling for consumption level. Moreover, alcohol beliefs moderated the relationship between impulsivity types and alcohol outcomes. Among students high (versus low) in sensation seeking, strong beliefs about alcohol's role in college life were related to significantly greater drinking, and among students high (versus low) in negative urgency, endorsing strong beliefs about alcohol's role in college life were related to greater levels of alcohol-related negative consequences. Overall, findings inform college prevention efforts by highlighting the need to distinguish unique facets of impulsivity and examine how they intersect with students’ beliefs about alcohol in college.
Sensation seeking; Urgency; Impulsivity; College drinking; Alcohol beliefs
The social norms approach to college drinking suggests that students misperceive the drinking behavior and attitudes of their peers. While much is known about these misperceptions, research is sparse regarding the context in which perceived and actual norms are assessed. As social influence is pronounced in college, the principles of Social Impact Theory may contribute to differences between assessments performed individually and those completed when surrounded by members of one’s salient reference group. The current study examines 284 members of campus organizations in two contexts (online and group) to determine if individuals endorse different responses to questions of perceived and actual drinking norms across contexts. All participants endorsed higher responses on questions of actual and perceived group behavior and of perceived group attitudes towards drinking during the group assessment. Men and students in Greek organizations may be more influenced by the proximity of their peers when presented with questions regarding perceived alcohol use. These results suggest that context of assessment needs to be considered when collecting self-report data from college students.
Social norms; College drinking; Greek students; Social Impact Theory
Of the alcohol-related risks faced by college students, it is arguable that none presents a greater public health hazard than driving after drinking (DAD). The present study examined the extent to which students’ injunctive misperceptions toward DAD predicted the likelihood to engage in DAD and how this relation was mediated by self-approval of DAD. Participants were 2,848 college students (59.1% female, 64.6% Caucasian) from two U.S. West Coast universities who completed confidential web-based surveys assessing DAD beliefs and behaviors. Results revealed that respondents tended to overestimate their peers’ approval toward DAD. Moreover, the subgroups likely to engage in DAD—men, 21+ years of age, Greek affiliated students, Caucasians, students with a family history of alcohol abuse—were also more likely to misperceive (i.e., overestimate) their peers’ level of approval toward DAD. Using binary logistic regression analyses, self-approval of DAD emerged as an important statistical mediator in the relation between misperception of typical student approval toward DAD and engagement in DAD. Results point to the considerable role injunctive peer misperceptions may play in the pathways leading to drinking-driving risk. These findings provide preliminary support for DAD-specific social normative interventions, either complementing or supplementing existing alcohol interventions. By targeting high-risk student subgroups and communicating accurate drinking-driving norms, these proposed interventions have the potential to reduce self-approval and incidence of DAD.
Prepartying among college students is an emerging topic of research and clinical focus. Unfortunately for some students, prepartying, or quick drinking before going out for the primary event of the evening, can lead to high blood alcohol levels, further drinking, and subsequent consequences. The present study was designed to explore the reasons for prepartying among a sample of 444 male and female students. Males and females reported arriving to a social event already under the influence, saving money, and making the night more interesting as their most highly endorsed reasons for prepartying. Males endorsed reasons relating to increased social and sexual facilitation with opposite sex peers to a greater extent than females. Although underage and legal drinking age participants did not differ in prepartying frequency or typical quantity, underage students reached higher estimated blood alcohol levels during prepartying. Finally, alcohol-related consequences were significantly and positively associated with nearly all reasons for prepartying for both men and women.
Personalized normative feedback (PNF) interventions are generally effective at correcting normative misperceptions and reducing risky alcohol consumption among college students. However, research has yet to establish what level of reference group specificity is most efficacious in delivering PNF. This study compared the efficacy of a web-based PNF intervention employing eight increasingly-specific reference groups against a Web-BASICS intervention and a repeated-assessment control in reducing risky drinking and associated consequences.
Participants were 1663 heavy drinking Caucasian and Asian undergraduates at two universities. The referent for web-based PNF was either the typical same-campus student, or a same-campus student at one (either gender, race, or Greek-affiliation), or a combination of two (e.g., gender and race), or all three levels of specificity (i.e., gender, race, and Greek-affiliation). Hypotheses were tested using quasi-Poisson generalized linear models fit by generalized estimating equations.
The PNF intervention participants showed modest reductions in all four outcomes (average total drinks, peak drinking, drinking days, and drinking consequences) compared to control participants. No significant differences in drinking outcomes were found between the PNF group as a whole and the Web-BASICS group. Among the eight PNF conditions, participants receiving typical student PNF demonstrated greater reductions in all four outcomes compared to those receiving PNF for more specific reference groups. Perceived drinking norms and discrepancies between individual behavior and actual norms mediated the efficacy of the intervention.
Findings suggest a web-based PNF intervention using the typical student referent offers a parsimonious approach to reducing problematic alcohol use outcomes among college students.
alcohol; social norms; personalized normative feedback; college students
Recent research indicates that protective behavioral strategies (PBS)—previously established as effective self-regulating tools for reducing alcohol risk among college students—may be especially useful for students with poor mental health, who are shown to be at heightened risk for alcohol-related harm. The current study examined the moderating influence of mental health (depression and anxiety severity), gender, and race (White, Asian) in the relationship between PBS use and alcohol-related negative consequences. Participants were 1,782 undergraduate students from two West Coast universities who reported past month incidence of heavy episodic drinking. Students reported on their drinking, experience of alcohol-related consequences, use of PBS, and depression and anxiety symptomatology. Overall, results demonstrated that among participants experiencing depression or anxiety, greater PBS utilization was associated with significantly lower levels of alcohol-related consequences, even after controlling for drinking and other predictors. However, findings also revealed important distinctions in the potential effectiveness of PBS by depression/anxiety severity and racial-gender subgroup, such that Asian men with poor mental health appeared to garner unique and substantial benefit (i.e., lesser consequences) from increased PBS use. Further, PBS were found to offer substantial protective benefit for White females, irrespective of mental health. This study points to the potential for targeted PBS-specific skills training and interventions to minimize alcohol-related risks faced by the growing subpopulation of college students experiencing psychological distress, and further highlights important race-gender differentials.
alcohol; college students; protective behavioral strategies; anxiety; depression; gender; race