Social Bond Theory and Drunk Driving in a Sample of College Students

Article excerpt

This paper reports the finding from a study that examined the relationship between social bond variables and drunk driving in a sample of university students. A questionnaire containing indicators representing social bond variables, as well as a measure of drunk driving was administered to a sample of 1459 college students. The results of this study provide mixed support for social bond theory. On the one hand, commitment to conventional activities and acceptance of conventional beliefs were negatively related to drunk driving. On the other hand, neither the involvement component nor the attachment component were related to drinking and driving in the manner predicted by social bond theory.


The consumption of alcohol by college students has received a tremendous amount of scrutiny in recent years. Binge drinking, or heavy episodic drinking, is a prevalent behavior that has been linked to a variety of problematic consequences for student drinkers. These include hangovers, blackouts, missing class, doing something they regret later, getting involved in physical fights and other arguments, and having trouble with the police (Wechsler, Davenport, Dowdall, Moeykens, & Castillo, 1995; Wechsler, Lee, Kuo, & H. Lee, 2000). Binge drinking is also associated with risky sexual behaviors, thus putting students at risk for contracting sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV (Meilman, 1993; Smith & Brown, 1998). Recent research has also revealed that students who drink frequently have higher odds of becoming the victim of assault (Mustaine & Tewskbury, 2000). The tragic alcohol-related deaths of students at several schools illustrate the potentially fatal consequences of this activity. However, the negative consequences of this behavior are not limited to drinkers. Intoxicated students also have an adverse impact on the campus and surrounding community. Examples of these so-called "secondary binge effects" include being verbally insulted or abused, being physically assaulted, having one's property damaged, experiencing unwelcome sexual advances, and having sleep or studying disturbed because of intoxicated students (Wechsler, Davenport, Dowdall, et al. 1994). Community residents who live near college campuses often report a lower quality of life resulting from the behavior of student drinkers (e.g., noise disturbances, disorderly conduct, litter, vandalism) (Wechsler, Lee, Kuo, et al., 2002).

Drunk driving is a type of alcohol-related behavior that endangers drinkers as well as other members of the campus and general community. University students appear to be particularly susceptible to driving while intoxicated (Wechsler, Lee, Nelson, & H. Lee, 2003). In a recent study, Hingson, Heeren, Zakocs, Kopstein, and Wechsler (2002) estimated that at least two million students drove while intoxicated during the previous year. The fatal consequences of this behavior are well documented. The leading cause of death for young people is automobile accidents, many of which are alcohol-related (McCormick & Ureda, 1995). In fact, the most common cause of death in young adults (aged 17-24) is alcohol-related accidents (Ham & Hope, 2003). According to one estimate, about 1100 college students died in alcohol-related crashes in 1998 (Wechsler et al., 2003)

Although recent studies (e.g., Billingham, Wilson, & Gross, 1999; Grenier, 1993; Harford, Wechsler, & Muthen, 2002; McCormick & Ureda, 1995) have sought to identify demographic factors associated with drinking and driving by college students, only a few studies have examined other factors associated with this behavior. For example, Clapp, Shillington, Lange, and Voas (2003) investigated the relationship between substance use patterns (e.g., binge drinking, marijuana use) and drunk driving by university students. Also, Hingson, Heeren, Zakocs, Winter, and Wechsler (2003) examined the relationship between age at first intoxication and students driving while intoxicated. …


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