An Exploration of Adlerian Lifestyle Themes and Alcohol-Related Behaviors among College Students

By Lewis, Todd F.; Osborn, Cynthia J. | Journal of Addictions & Offender Counseling, October 2004 | Go to article overview

An Exploration of Adlerian Lifestyle Themes and Alcohol-Related Behaviors among College Students


Lewis, Todd F., Osborn, Cynthia J., Journal of Addictions & Offender Counseling


The aim of this study was to investigate college student drinking through the lens of Adlerian theory. In a sample of 273 participants, multiple regression analyses confirmed that certain lifestyle themes were associated with alcohol-related behaviors and that men and women who engage in drinking differ in their convictions and goals as defined by Adlerian theory.

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Heavy drinking among college students is considered by far the most serious public health problem currently facing universities and colleges in the United States (Wechsler, Dowdall, Maenner, Gledhill-Hoyt, & Lee, 1998). Heavy drinking among college students can lead to serious, acute problems, which can manifest as chronic problems later in life. It is perhaps these consequences of drinking that concern college health officials the most. For example, alcohol abuse and related consequences escalated in the 1997-1998 academic year, leading to such serious consequences as death by overdose, arrests, violence, and campus riots (Syre, Pesa, & Cockley, 1999). Despite many campus programs and interventions across the United States, the proportion of students who use alcohol, the levels at which they use it, and the number of negative consequences experienced all remain relatively high (Prendergast, 1994).

There is a vast amount of literature examining alcohol consumption and associated consequences among college students. Research on alcohol consumption by college students ranges from large-based national surveys (Douglas et al., 1997; O'Malley & Johnston, 2002; Wechsler, Lee, Kuo, & Lee, 2000) to investigations in one state or on one campus (Haberman, 1994; Miller, Toscova, Miller, & Sanchez, 2000; Robinson, Gloria, Roth, & Schuetter, 1993). In general, many of these studies have advanced knowledge by (a) raising awareness of the scope of the problem; (b) giving estimates of prevalence, patterns, and consequences of drinking behavior among college students; and (c) identifying correlates of drinking behavior, which range from demographic variables (e.g., gender, race, place of residence, and type of school attended) to cognitive, behavioral, and personality characteristics of college students who consume alcohol and those who do not.

Although such findings are helpful in determining what individual traits and groups of traits are commonly associated with alcohol-related behavior, research grounded in theory could potentially offer a more comprehensive picture of drinking problems among college students. As Durkin, Wolfe, and Clark (1999) noted, "regardless of which theory is used, it is imperative that theory-driven research is conducted on this topic ]college alcohol consumption]" (p. 461).

Many investigators have examined alcohol consumption and associated problems among college students within the framework of theory. For example, Cherry (1987) and Durkin et al. (1999) studied alcohol-related behavior among college students through social bond theory, which emphasizes the importance of attachment to others, commitment to life pursuits, involvement, and positive belief systems. Lo (1991) conducted a study of problem-drinking behavior among college students at a southern university and found support for problem behavior theory, which states that individual personality systems and perceived environmental systems play significant roles in drinking behavior. Miller et al. (2000) designed and implemented the Campus-Wide Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Program, based on self-regulation theory, at a major southwestern state university. In a study pertaining only to college men, Korcuska and Thombs (2003) examined the relation of gender role conflict theory to alcohol use and related risk behavior. Thombs (1999) presented several theoretical perspectives on addictive behaviors, including psychodynamic theory, conditioning models, cognitive theory, and family systems theory. Alcohol-related behaviors among college students, however, have been relatively unexamined through the comprehensive personality theory of Alfred Adler. …

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