How College Drinking among Women Is Predicted before They Leave Home

Parents with a teen about to leave for college are faced with a big challenge. How can they caution their “child” without offending the adult their son or daughter has become? The parents may fear the implications of their college freshman’s early decision-making in the new freedom found at school.

Recent research points to the wisdom of helping a college freshman navigate some of their decisions before they ever leave home. Rather than a sudden independence free-for-all, the research indicates that some decisions are made before the opportunity is presented.

A study by Maria Testa, Jill N. Kearns-Bodkin and Jennifer A. Livingston examined the influence of pre-college drinking intentions on the behaviors of college freshmen women. They looked at how their intentions about heavy episodic drinking (HED) impacted the decisions of women making the transition between high school and college.

The researchers’ hypothesis stated that the effects of drinking intentions would be mediated by first semester social norms and drinking pressure when examining first and second semester HED.

The study’s hypothesis was tested by recruiting 416 high school seniors from the community. The seniors were evaluated both at the time of high school graduation and at the end of first and second semesters of their freshman year at college.

The results of the study find that the hypothesis was supported by the data obtained. The researchers found that perceptions about college drinking formed before school was started predicted first semester descriptive and injunctive social norms and social pressure to drink. The researchers controlled for high school HED.

Social influence factors were associated with more instances of HED in the first semester, when then predicted more instances of HED during the second semester.

The results of the study indicate that drinking intentions formed before beginning the first semester of college play a significant role in decisions about drinking. The ideas formed about drinking before college may influence decisions about the college social environment and play an important role in actual HED while in school.

Future studies may look at what influences affect the intentions students have about HED before they leave for school. It may be beneficial to examine whether parents, school-sponsored organizations, peers or a combination of influences impact the attitudes college freshmen have about drinking.

As parents determine what strategy to use when getting their student ready for their first year of college, assessing intentions about drinking may be first on the agenda. Having the conversation before the student begins college may be critical in their decisions.

Posted on January 8th, 2010
Posted in Young Adults

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