Objective: The study was designed to assess current trends in studying, and emerging approaches to furthering understanding of, college drinking.
Method: A literature review was conducted of findings and methods highlighting conceptual and methodological issues that need to be addressed.
Results: Most studies address clinical, developmental and psychological variables and are conducted at single points in time on single campuses. Factors affecting college alcohol use and methods of studying them are discussed.
Conclusions: Most current studies of college drinking do not address the influence of the college and its alcohol environment. Our understanding of college drinking can be improved by expanding the scope of issues studied and choosing appropriate research designs. (J. Stud. Alcohol, Supplement No. 14: 14-22, 2002)
George W. Dowdall, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Sociology, St. Joseph’s University, and Henry Wechsler, Ph.D., Lecturer and Director of College Alcohol Studies, Department of Health and Social Behavior, Harvard School of Public Health
Objective: This article provides information on the extent of alcohol use and other drug use among American college students.
Method: Five different sources of data are examined for estimating recent levels of alcohol (and other drug) use among college students: Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study (CAS), the Core Institute (CORE), Monitoring the Future (MTF), National College Health Risk Behavior Survey (NCHRBS) and National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA).
Results: Alcohol use rates are very high among college students. Approximately two of five American college students were heavy drinkers, defined as having had five or more drinks in a row in the past 2 weeks. Alcohol use is higher among male than female students. White students are highest in heavy drinking, black students are lowest and Hispanic students are intermediate. Use of alcohol—but not cigarettes, marijuana and cocaine—is higher among college students than among noncollege age-mates. Longitudinal data show that, while in high school, students who go on to attend college have lower rates of heavy drinking than do those who will not attend college. Both groups increase their heavy drinking after high school graduation, but the college students increase distinctly more and actually surpass their nonstudent age-mates. Trend data from 1980 to 1999 show some slight improvement in recent years.
Conclusions: Despite improvements in the past 20 years, colleges need to do more to reduce heavy alcohol use among students. (J. Stud. Alcohol, Supplement No. 14: 23- 39, 2002)
Patrick M. O’Malley, Ph.D., Senior Research Scientist, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, and Lloyd D. Johnston, Ph.D., Distinguished Research Scientist, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan
Objective: Research on individual differences in drinking rates and associated problems among college students is reviewed.
Method: Studies are included if completed within U.S. college and university samples and found in published scientific literature as identified by several searches of national databases.
Results: The resulting review suggests first that the extant literature is large and varied in quality, as most studies use questionnaire responses from samples of convenience in cross-sectional designs. Evidence from studies of college samples does consistently suggest that alcohol is consumed for several different purposes for different psychological effects in different contexts. A pattern of impulsivity/sensation seeking is strongly related to increased drinking among students. This pattern is supported by research into personality, drinking motives, alcohol expectancies and drinking contexts. A second pattern of drinking associated with negative emotional states is also documented. Some long-term consequences of this second pattern have been described. Social processes appear especially important for drinking in many college venues and may contribute to individual differences in drinking more than enduring personality differences.
Conclusions: Future research efforts should test interactive and mediating models of multiple risk factors and address developmental processes. (J. Stud. Alcohol, Supplement No. 14: 40-53, 2002)
John S. Baer, Ph.D., Research Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Washington, and Coordinator of Education, Center of Excellence in Substance Abuse Treatment and Education, VA Puget Sound Health Care System
Objective: This article offers a developmental perspective on college drinking by focusing on broad developmental themes during adolescence and the transition to young adulthood.
Method: A literature review was conducted.
Results: The transition to college involves major individual and contextual change in every domain of life; at the same time, heavy drinking and associated problems increase during this transition. A developmental contextual perspective encourages the examination of alcohol use and heavy drinking in relation to normative developmental tasks and transitions and in the context of students' changing lives, focusing on interindividual variation in the course and consequences of drinking and on a wide range of proximal and distal influences. Links between developmental transitions and alcohol use and other health risks are discussed in light of five conceptual models: Overload, Developmental Mismatch, Increased Heterogeneity, Transition Catalyst and Heightened Vulnerability to Chance Events. We review normative developmental transitions of adolescence and young adulthood, focusing on the domains of physical and cognitive development, identity, affiliation and achievement.
Conclusions: As shown in a selective review of empirical studies, these transitions offer important vantage points for examining increasing (and decreasing) alcohol and other drug use during adolescence and young adulthood. We conclude with a consideration of research and intervention implications. (J. Stud. Alcohol, Supplement No. 14: 54-70, 2002)
John E. Schulenberg, Ph.D., Senior Research Scientist, Institute for Social Research, Professor, Department of Psychology, and Research Scientist, Center for Human Growth and Development, University of Michigan, and Jennifer L. Maggs, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Family Studies and Human Development, University of Arizona
Objective: This article reviews the literature on adolescent brain development and considers the impact of these neural alterations on the propensity to use and misuse alcohol.
Method: Neural, behavioral and hormonal characteristics of adolescents across a variety of species were examined, along with a review of the ontogeny of ethanol responsiveness, tolerance development and stress/alcohol interactions.
Results: The adolescent brain is a brain in transition. Prominent among the brain regions undergoing developmental change during adolescence in a variety of species are the prefrontal cortex and other forebrain dopamine projection regions, stressor-sensitive areas that form part of the neural circuitry modulating the motivational value of alcohol and other reinforcing stimuli. Along with these characteristic brain features, adolescents also exhibit increased stressor responsivity and an altered sensitivity to a variety of ethanol effects. Findings are mixed to date as to whether exposure to ethanol during this time of rapid brain development alters neurocognitive function and later propensity for problematic ethanol use.
Conclusions: Developmental transformations of the adolescent brain may have been evolutionarily advantageous in promoting behavioral adaptations to avoid inbreeding and to facilitate the transition to independence. These brain transformations may also alter sensitivity of adolescents to a number of alcohol effects, leading perhaps in some cases to higher intakes to attain reinforcing effects. These features of the adolescent brain may also increase the sensitivity of adolescents to stressors, further escalating their propensity to initiate alcohol use. Additional investigations are needed to resolve whether ethanol use during adolescence disrupts maturational processes in ethanol-sensitive brain regions. (J. Stud. Alcohol, Supplement No. 14: 71-81, 2002)
Objective: The purpose of this article is to examine the aspects of collegiate environments, rather than student characteristics, that influence drinking. Unfortunately, the existing literature is scant on this topic.
Method: A literature review of articles primarily published within the last 10 years, along with some earlier "landmark" studies of collegiate drinking in the United States, was conducted to determine institutional factors that influence the consumption of alcohol. In addition, a demonstration analysis of Core Alcohol and Drug Survey research findings was conducted to further elucidate the issues.
Results: Several factors have been shown to relate to drinking: (1) organizational property variables of campuses, including affiliations (historically black institutions, women's institutions), presence of a Greek system, athletics and 2- or 4-year designation; (2) physical and behavioral property variables of campuses, including type of residence, institution size, location and quantity of heavy episodic drinking; and (3) campus community property variables, including pricing and availability and outlet density. Studies, however, tend to look at individual variables one at a time rather than in combination (multivariate analyses). Some new analyses, using Core Alcohol and Drug Survey data sets, are presented as examples of promising approaches to future research.
Conclusions: Given the complexities of campus environments, it continues to be a challenge to the field to firmly establish the most compelling institutional and environmental factors relating to high-risk collegiate drinking. (J. Stud. Alcohol, Supplement No. 14: 82-90, 2002)
Cheryl A. Presley, Ph.D., Director, Student Health Programs and Assistant to the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs for Research, Executive Director, Core Institute, Southern Illinois University; Philip W. Meilman, Ph.D., Director, Counseling and Psychological Services, Courtesy Professor of Human Development, Associate Professor of Psychology in Clinical Psychiatry, Cornell University; and Jami S. Leichliter, Ph.D., Behavioral Scientist, Division of STD Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Preventiony
This article provides a review and synthesis of professional research literature on the types, extent and patterns of negative consequences produced by student's misuse of alcohol in college populations based on survey research conducted during the last two decades. Considerable evidence is available documenting a wide range of damage by some student's drinking done to themselves as well as to other individuals, although some types of consequences remain speculative. Damage and costs to institutions are likely to be substantial, but this claim remains largely an inference based on current studies. Drinking by males compared with that of females produces more consequences for self and others that involve public deviance, whereas female's drinking contributes equally with males to consequences that are personal and relatively private. Research on racial/ethnic background, time trends and developmental stages reveals patterns in student data on consequences of drinking, but these data are very limited in the literature. Evidence suggests there is only a modest correlation between student's self-perception of having a drinking problem and the many negative consequences of drinking that are reported. (J. Stud. Alcohol, Supplement No. 14: 91-100, 2002)
H. Wesley Perkins, Ph.D., Professor of Sociology, Department of Anthropology and Sociology, Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Objective: To evaluate the empirical associations between alcohol use and risky sex at two levels of analysis. Global associations test whether individuals who engage in one behavior are more likely to engage in the other, whereas event-specific associations test whether the likelihood of engaging in one behavior on a given occasion varies as a function of engaging in the other on that same occasion.
Method: Studies examining the association between drinking and risky sex in samples of college students and youth were reviewed. Those published in the past 10 years and using event-level methodology or random sampling were emphasized.
Results: Findings were generally consistent across levels of analysis, but differed across types of risky behaviors. Drinking was strongly related to the decision to have sex and to indiscriminate forms of risky sex (e.g., having multiple or casual sex partners), but was inconsistently related to protective behaviors (e.g., condom use). Moreover, the links among alcohol use, the decision to have sex and indiscriminate behaviors were found in both between-persons and within-persons analyses, suggesting that these relationships cannot be adequately explained by stable individual differences between people who do and do not drink. Analysis of event characteristics showed that drinking was more strongly associated with decreased protective behaviors among younger individuals, on first intercourse experiences and for events that occurred on average longer ago. Conclusions: Future efforts aimed at reducing alcohol use in potentially sexual situations may decrease some forms of risky sex, but are less likely to affect protective behaviors directly. (J. Stud. Alcohol, Supplement No. 14: 101-117, 2002)
M. Lynne Cooper, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, Department of Psychology, University of Missouri at Columbia
Objective: This article summarizes research on the role of alcohol in college students' sexual assault experiences. Sexual assault is extremely common among college students. At least half of these sexual assaults involve alcohol consumption by the perpetrator, the victim or both.
Method: Two research literatures were reviewed: the sexual assault literature and the literature that examines alcohol's effects on aggressive and sexual behavior.
Results: Research suggests that alcohol consumption by the perpetrator and/or the victim increases the likelihood of acquaintance sexual assault occurring through multiple pathways. Alcohol's psychological, cognitive and motor effects contribute to sexual assault.
Conclusions: Although existing research addresses some important questions, there are many gaps. Methodological limitations of past research are noted, and suggestions are made for future research. In addition, recommendations are made for college prevention programs and policy initiatives. (J. Stud. Alcohol, Supplement No. 14: 118-128, 2002)
Antonia Abbey, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Community Medicine, Wayne State University
Objective: The purpose of this article is to present an overview of the research literature on alcohol-related aggression with a focus on college students.
Method: Data from both survey studies and experimental laboratory investigations conducted on college students are reviewed. Various methodological approaches to studying the alcoholaggression relation, and their associated limitations, are then presented and discussed.
Results: The literature indicates that alcohol consumption facilitates aggressive behavior and increases the risk of being the victim of a violent act, particularly in heavy drinkers. Results from these studies are then placed into a context by reviewing 12 influential theories of aggression and alcohol-related aggression. On the basis of these theories and empirical data, a preliminary risk profile is presented to help identify which factors are likely to be important in predicting who will and who will not become aggressive after drinking alcohol.
Conclusions: Although much research is still needed to elucidate the intricate causes of alcohol-related aggression, current prevention efforts might focus on modifying key risk factors such as poor cognitive functioning and inaccurate expectations about the effects of alcohol. Other prevention efforts directed specifically at college students might focus on helping them to identify risky situations that might facilitate the expression of intoxicated aggression. (J. Stud. Alcohol, Supplement No. 14: 129-139, 2002)
Peter R. Giancola, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Psychology, University of Kentucky