Dressing in Costume and the Use of Alcohol, Marijuana, and Other Drugs by College Students

By Miller, Kimberly A.; Jasper, Cynthia R. et al. | Adolescence, Spring 1993 | Go to article overview
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Dressing in Costume and the Use of Alcohol, Marijuana, and Other Drugs by College Students

Miller, Kimberly A., Jasper, Cynthia R., Hill, Donald R., Adolescence


Halloween is a major social event on many college campuses, one often celebrated by dressing in costume. Hill and Relethford (1979) found that approximately 75% of the students on two northeastern campuses participated in Halloween activities, and of those, 85% wore a costume.

In spite of the extensive participation of college students in Halloween activities, previous researchers have not addressed various issues related to the celebration, such as the use of alcohol and other drugs. Thus, this study was designed to investigate the use of Halloween costumes by college students and its relationship with the use of alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs. Also investigated was whether alcohol and other drug use was related to the extent to which the students' identity was disguised, and whether they masqueraded with a group.

Dress behavior and its relationship to the self has been studied extensively (Stone, 1962; Eicher, 1981; Joseph, 1986; Wilson, 1985; Jasper & Roach-Higgins, 1988; Miller, 1990; Miller, Jasper, & Hill, 1991). George Herbert Mead laid the groundwork for the study of the self, and his findings were built upon by Stone (1962) and Goffman (1959), who related the self to dress and appearance. Eicher (1981), building on Stone's work, proposed a theoretical framework for viewing dress and the communication of the parts of the self. Eicher proposed that individuals dress for reality, fun, and fantasy, while communicating the public, intimate, and secret selves, respectively. Thus, the use of alcohol and other drugs is only one type of behavior that may be related to dressing in costume. In another study by Miller, Jasper, and Hill (1991), costume was studied in relation to its effect on the perception of identity and role at Halloween.

The use of alcohol and other drugs by college students is well documented (Tobias & Wax, 1973; Kandel, 1980; Wechsler & Rohman, 1981; Meyer, 1986; Patterson, Meyers, & Gallant, 1988; Carlson & Davis, 1988; Carmody, 1990). Various aspects of the use of alcohol and drugs within the college setting have been examined, including drinking patterns among college fraternities (Kodman & Sturmak, 1984), peer pressure associated with drinking (Shore & Rivers, 1985), college adjustment problems and attitudes toward drinking (Kleinke & Hinrichs, 1983), and demographic variables and recreational substance use among college students (Carlson & Davis, 1988).

In addition, governmental studies regarding the use of alcohol and other drugs have been conducted. They show that in 1988, 90% of persons 18 to 25 years of age had tried alcohol, and 65% were considered current users. Fifty-six percent of persons in the same age group had tried marijuana, and 15% were considered current users. (Current users were defined as those who used drugs at least once during the month prior to the study.) Other drugs reported as having been used at least once by those 18 to 25 years of age were hallucinogens (14%), cocaine (20%), stimulants (11%), and sedatives (5%) (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1990, p. 122). Clifford, Edmundson, Koch, and Dodd (1989) contend that "although estimates concerning the prevalence of various forms of substance abuse vary considerably, it is critical to note that even the more conservative estimates indicate a major public health problem". However, research linking the use of alcohol and other drugs with college students' dress and their participation at special occasions, such as Halloween, is lacking. Yet the way students choose to present themselves has been documented as a reflection of the way they wish to identify their role within the college setting (Lind & Roach-Higgins, 1985). In addition, the way others act toward a college student is influenced by that student's dress and appearance. Thus, the way college students attire themselves shapes both their behavior and that of persons who interact with them (Bushman, 1988).

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Dressing in Costume and the Use of Alcohol, Marijuana, and Other Drugs by College Students


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