Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Moderators of the Relationship between Religiosity and Alcohol Use in College Students

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Moderators of the Relationship between Religiosity and Alcohol Use in College Students

Article excerpt

Alcohol use and abuse among college students is of serious concern for a variety of social and health-related reasons. High levels of consumption have been attributed to impaired academic performance, early onset of substance dependence, risk of vehicle-related accidents, and elevated threat of violence, sexual assault, and other illegal behaviors (Ellison, Bradshaw, Rote, Storch, & Trevino, 2008). In 2007 the U.S. Surgeon General declared underage alcohol use a chief health concern for the nation, emphasizing the importance of research into the predictors of and protectors against college-age drinking (Brown, Salsman, Brechting, 8c Carlson, 2007). Recent investigations into these factors have established a number of prevalent variables related to alcohol use including both demographic (e.g., gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status) and biological factors (prenatal exposure, generic predisposition, cognitive functioning) that remain relatively constant throughout the lifespan (Chassin, Hussong, 8c Beltran, 2009). However, environmentally determined correlates are more likely to differ as a function of time as aspirations, stress, and peer groups undergo change and maturation, likewise producing varying effects on substance use.

Consequently, although religiosity--that is, the quality of being religious or of devout faith--has been regarded as one such environmental protective factor in adulthood, the mechanisms behind this relationship remain unclear among emerging adults (Brechting et al., 2010; Convyn, 2002). Whereas research asserts that adults frequently use alcohol as a means of coping with stress, anxiety, or depression (e.g., Grunbaum, Tortolero, Weller, & Gingiss, 2000; Strawser, Storch, Geffken, Killiany, & Baumeister, 2004; Wills, Yaeger, & Sandy, 2003), drinking behaviors within the college population are primarily driven by social motives (Bahr, Maughan, Marcos, & Li, 1998; Perkins, 1987; Regnerus, 2006; Westmaas, Moeller, & Woicik, 2007). For this very reason, studies have suggested that public religiosity's impact on alcohol use is largely mediated by peer and parent lifestyles, values, and socialization (Burkett, 1993; Ellison et al., 2008; Perkins, 1987; Regnerus, 2006; Wood, Read, Mitchell, & Brand, 2004). Even so, measurements of religiosity as a construct rarely separate these social factors from more internal, private forms of devotion and, when assessed with respect to substance use and other risky behaviors, religiosity is not often analyzed beyond participants' religious denomination and frequency of service attendance. This study therefore aims to expand this limited area of research within the emerging adult population, at which time college students have the choice to pursue or refrain from opportunities to establish new peer groups, drink while underage, maintain contact with family, and become religiously involved, all of which may alter perceptions of and behaviors toward alcohol.

Religiosity and Alcohol Use

The sparse literature concerning the association between religiosity and substance use has generally not distinguished between religion and spirituality, which have often been combined into a single construct (e.g., Bert, 2011; Good, Willoughby, & Busseri, 2010). Hodge, Andereck, and Montoya (2007) were among the first to distinguish spirituality and religiosity based on the ways in which people exhibit their beliefs. Specifically, they proposed that spirituality be defined in individual, existential, and relational terms of an almost transcendental nature (e.g., I often experience a feeling of unity with the earth and all livingthings) while religion should be displayed as a combination of communal, organizational, and structured expressions (i.e., frequency of church attendance and religious organization participation).

Building off this distinction, a study conducted by Borders, Curran, Mattox, and Booth (2010) assessed religiosity through a set of clear dimensions that not only addressed examples of faith and internal thoughts but also separated private religious practices from spiritual beliefs. …

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