Social Bond Theory and Binge Drinking among College Students: A Multivariate Analysis

Article excerpt

This paper presents the results of a research project that examined the influence of social bond variables on binge drinking in a sample of college students. A questionnaire containing items which reflected a number of social bond variables and a measure of frequency of binge drinking was administered to a sample (n=247) of college students. The results indicated that nearly all of the social bond measures were inversely related to the frequency of binge drinking. A multivariate model that used these social bond measures explained approximately one-quarter of the variance in the frequency of binge drinking for the students in this sample. Respect for authority, acceptance of conventional beliefs, and G.P.A. were particularly important predictors of binge drinking. Recommendations for ameliorating this problem and suggested directions for future research on binge drinking by college students are also discussed.


A great deal of concern has focused on the abuse of alcohol by college students and the problems associated with it. Studies have linked alcohol consumption by college students to a number of negative consequences, ranging from vandalism to sexual assault (Abbey, 1991; Engs & Hanson, 1988; Saltz & Elandt, 1986). Recently, one specific pattern of alcohol consumption, "binge drinking", has drawn a substantial amount of attention from university administrators, counselors, and researchers in the behavioral sciences. Binge drinking has been defined as the consumption of five or more drinks in a row (Haines & Spear, 1996; Nezlek, Pilkington, & Bilbro, 1994; Shulenberg, Wadsworth, O'Malley, Bachman, & Johnston, 1996; Wechsler & Issac, 1992). Binge drinking has been characterized as the foremost public health hazard for college students (Wechsler, Dowdall, Davenport, & Castillo, 1995). Students who binge drink are more likely than other students to experience a wide variety of alcohol-related problems, including hangovers, blackouts, missing class due to drinking, engaging in unplanned sexual activity, damaging property, and getting into trouble with the police (Wechsler, Davenport, Dowdall, Moeykens, & Castillo, 1994; Wechsler & Issac, 1992). Moreover, it is estimated that more than half of the young adults who binge drink on a weekly basis exhibit indications of alcohol abuse or dependency (Shulenberg et al., 1996).

Research indicates that binge drinking is relatively prevalent among college students. For instance, a recent survey conducted on a national sample of 17,592 college students found that approximately half (44%) of the respondents indicated that they had binged in the previous two weeks (Wechsler et al., 1994). Similarly, another study found that over half of the males and one-third of the females in a sample of students from Massachusetts colleges reported binge drinking in the two weeks prior to the survey (Wechsler & Issac, 1992). Research has also identified demographic variables associated with binge drinking among college students. These include: males are more likely than females to binge drink (Wechsler & Issac, 1992; Wechsler et al., 1994; Wechsler et al., 1995); fraternity members have a higher rate of binge drinking than other students (Wechsler, Kuh, & Davenport 1996); and Whites are more likely to binge drink than are students from other racial groups (Wechsler et al., 1995).

Despite the prevalence of this phenomenon and the numerous problems which are associated with it, relatively few researchers have attempted to explain binge drinking among college students or other young people as it is currently conceptualized. For example, Shulenberg et al. (1996) examined the influence of personality characteristics and a limited number of "social context" variables on binge drinking in young adults. Wechsler et al. (1995) investigated the relationship between binge drinking among college students and several social factors (i. …