Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

Predictors of Undergraduate Student Binge Drinking

Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

Predictors of Undergraduate Student Binge Drinking

Article excerpt

The relative importance of a number of predictors of binge drinking and of high- versus low-frequency binge drinking among undergraduate students was studied. Findings demonstrated that race, class, fraternity or sorority membership, use of other drugs in the past 30 days, positive alcohol expectancies, perception of minimal risk, perception that friends do not disapprove of binge drinking, and perception of high normative drinking were factors in predicting episodes of binge drinking. Being male, having fraternity or sorority membership, perceiving that friends do not disapprove, and using other drugs distinguished high-frequency from low-frequency binge drinkers.


Binge drinking is a concern on college campuses. Surveys of college students nationwide have found average binge drinking rates (generally defined as five or more drinks in a row or in a sitting) of 42% to 44% (Core Institute, 2000; Johnston, O'Malley, & Bachman, 1996; Presley, Meilman, & Cashin, 1996; Wechsler et al., 2002). Students who engage in bouts of heavy drinking experience significantly more problems (e.g., serious health problems, injuries, and unplanned sex) due to their drinking than students who do not drink heavily, and the consequences are even greater for students who frequently drink heavily (Carey & Correia, 1995; Midanik, Tam, Greenfield, & Caetano, 1996; Wechsler et al., 2002).

A wide variety of factors are associated with binge drinking among college students: Binge drinkers are more likely to be male, Caucasian, young, single, and members of fraternities or sororities (Cashin, Presley, & Meilman, 1998; Douglas et al., 1997; Ends & Hanson, 1990; Johnston et al., 1996; La & Globetti, 1993; Schall, Weede, & Maltzmas, 1991; Wechsler, Dowdall, Davenport, & Castillo, 1995). Students who drink excessively value parties, socializing, and athletics more highly than those who do not. They value religion, community service, and academics less highly than students who do not drink excessively (Cherry, 1991; Ends & Hanson, 1990; Wechsler et al., 1995). Some researchers have found an association between students' housing arrangements (e.g., living with parents vs. roommates) and excessive drinking (e.g., Presley, Meilman, & Leichliter, 2002), but others have found no association between these two variables (La & Globetti, 1993; Schall et al., 1991).

Many other variables that contribute to binge drinking have been investigated. Numerous studies have found links between students' excessive drinking behavior and positive expectancies for alcohol (McCarty, Morrison, & Mills, 1983; Rohsenow, 1983; Stacy, Widaman, & Marlatt, 1990; Wood, Nagoshi, & Dennis, 1992).

Heavy drinkers not only expect more positive consequences from drinking (e.g., increased social and sexual pleasure, reduced tension) than do moderate drinkers, they also rate these consequences more highly (Leigh, 1987; McCarty et al., 1983). Although students identify negative consequences of alcohol use, such as hangovers, sickness, or school problems, these seem to be outweighed by positive expectancies, particularly among heavy drinkers (Rohsenow, 1983; Stacey et al., 1990).

Risk is another factor. In general, students perceive the risks of heavy drinking to be low (Agostinelli & Miller, 1994; Burrell, 1992) and their own risk to be lower than that of their peers (Leigh, 1987; Smith & McCauley, 1991; Weinstein, 1989). Smith and McCauley found that only personal risks of drinking, not general risks, were related to students' drinking behavior. However, binge drinking has been found to be associated with other forms of risky behavior. Students who engage in binge drinking are more likely to use tobacco or marijuana and to have more sexual partners (Wechsler et al., 1995). Students who drink heavily have been found to be more likely to have unplanned sex (Meilman, 1993) and to be less likely to use contraceptives than those who do not (Leigh, 1987). …

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