Can the Theory of Planned Behavior Mediate the Effects of Low Self-Control on Alcohol Use?

By Higgins, George E.; Marcum, Catherine Davis | College Student Journal, March 2005 | Go to article overview

Can the Theory of Planned Behavior Mediate the Effects of Low Self-Control on Alcohol Use?


Higgins, George E., Marcum, Catherine Davis, College Student Journal


Some studies show that Gottfredson and Hirschi's low self-control plays an important role in alcohol use, but low self-control remains stable over time. Because self-control is not easily changed, the present study examines the ability of theory of planned behavior to mediate the effect of love self-control on intentions to use alcohol and alcohol use. Using a nonrandom prospective sample of college students, this study shows the theory of planned behavior partially mediates the effect of low self-control on alcohol use. The study also outlines possible policy' implications of the findings.

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Drinking alcohol among college students is common. Greenfield and Rogers (1999) show that young adults (i.e., 18 to 29 years) account for almost forty five percent of adult drinking. Wechsler, Lee, Kuo, and Lee (2000) show that the intensity of [college student] drinking increased significantly between 1993 and 1999. In 1999, both male and female students were drunk three times in the past month (Wechsler et al., 2000). Reports also show that binge drinking (i.e., the consumption of five or more drinks at one time for men and four or more drinks at a time for women) is a common phenomenon among, college students (Wechsler, Dowdall. Maenner, Gledhill-Hoyt, & Lee, 1998). This form of drinking is so common that Wechsler et al. (1998) estimate two of live American college students are binge drinkers. They go on to report that college students (both men and women) are drinking with the intent on getting drunk (Wechsler et al., 1998).

Students that drink usually cause problems for others and themselves (Wechsler et al., 2000). For instance, they miss class. engage in unplanned and unsafe sexual activity, are victims of sexual assault and physical assault, suffer unintentional injuries, higher rates of criminal victimization, physical or cognitive impairment, and poor academic performance (Wechsler et al., 1998). Further, Wechsler, Lee, Kuo, Seibring, Nelson and Lee (2002) report the most frequent secondhand effects (i.e., experiencing negative effects from their peers' drinking) are having study/sleep interrupted, having to take care of a drunken student, and being insulted or humiliated, which are factors that impede success at college. Tewksbury and Pedro (2003) show that alcohol use and binge drinking exacerbates these negative consequences among youth and young adults. Thus, alcohol use among college aged students has manifestations that are a focus of researchers' attention.

Recently, research attention on alcohol use has been focused on identifying the determinants of alcohol use. For instance, some studies show that Gottfredson and Hirschi's (1990) low self-control plays an important role in alcohol use (see Gibbs & Giever, 1995; Winfree & Bernat, 1998; Wood, Pfefferbaum, & Arnkelev, 1993; Arneklev, Grasmick, Tittle, & Bursik, 1993: Sorenson & Brownfield, 1995: LaGrange & Silverman, 1999; Piquero, Gibson, & Tibbetts, 2002; Tibbetts & Whittimore, 2002). However, studies show Gottfredson and Hirschi's (1990) low self-control remains stable over time (Ameklev et al., 1999; Turner & Piquero, 2002). Because low self-control is not easily changed, researchers need to develop models that will mediate the influence that low self-control has on alcohol use. The present study examines the ability of theory of planned behavior (see Ajzen, 1988, 1991) to mediate the effect of low self-control on students' intentions to use alcohol and students' alcohol use.

Self-Control Theory

Gottfredson and Hirschi's (1990) General Theory of Crime, now known as self-control theory is one of the most popular theories in criminology (Agnew, 1995;). Central to Gottfredson and Hirschi's (1990) theory is low self-control, which is a time-stable individual difference that regulates the inclination toward crime and analogous acts, in Gottfredson and Hirschi's (1990) view individuals with low self-control are the probable result of ineffective or poor parenting. …

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