Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

Ethnic Differences in Drinking Motives and Alcohol Use among College Athletes

Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

Ethnic Differences in Drinking Motives and Alcohol Use among College Athletes

Article excerpt

This study examined drinking motives, alcohol use, and alcohol-related problems among White college athletes and college athletes of color (N = 113). Results indicated no differences in drinking motives between the 2 groups. White athletes reported higher levels of alcohol use, whereas athletes of color reported higher levels of alcohol-related problems. Athletes of color with high levels of coping and conformity motives reported the highest level of alcohol-related problems.

Keywords: alcohol, student athletes, drinking motives


Drinking represents a significant problem on college campuses in the United States. National survey data indicate that 80% to 85% of U.S. college students report drinking (O'Malley & Johnston, 2002), and 40% to 45% reported a heavy drinking episode at least once in the 2 weeks prior to the survey (Wechsler et al., 2002). Heavy drinking is associated with multiple social problems, such as arguing with friends, unplanned sexual activity, drinking and driving, getting into trouble with the law, and academic difficulties (Hingson, Heeren, Winter, & Wechsler, 2005). Additionally, severe consequences, such as unintended injuries, sexual abuse, assault, and alcohol-related fatalities, have been reported (Hingson, Edwards, Heeren, & Rosenbloom, 2009).

Relative to the general college population, student athletes have been identified as a high-risk group for heavy drinking (Martens, Dams-O'Connor, & Beck, 2006; Turrisi, Mallett, Mastroleo, & Larimer, 2006). Research indicates that students participadng in athletic activities, including varsity, intramural, and club sports, typically drink more heavily and frequently than nonathletes (Doumas, Turrisi, Coll, & Haralson, 2007). Drinking is particularly problematic for student athletes because alcohol use may result in physical and cognitive performance deficits related to athletic performance (Grossbard, Hummer, LaBrie, Pederson, & Neighbors, 2009). Alcohol use is also associated with academic and social problems, which may result in poor athletic performance or, in some cases, suspension or removal from the team. Thus, understanding the factors that contribute to drinking among student athletes and identifying which athletes are most vulnerable to these factors are important components in decreasing alcohol use and associated outcomes, in order to enhance the athletes' academic, emotional, and physical performance.

Several socially focused explanations have been offered to account for the heavy alcohol use in student athletes (see Martens, Dams-O'Connor, & Beck, 2006). Student athletes are faced with the stress of multiple role demands and expectations of parents and coaches with regard to athletic performance and winning (Evans, Weinberg, & Jackson, 1992). Evidence also suggests that student athletes tend to be isolated from the general student body (Sedlacek & Adams-Gaston, 1992). This isolation from the larger campus may contribute to the need for the student athletes to assimilate into the athletic culture. Identification with the athletic peer group leaves student athletes particularly vulnerable to heavy drinking because student athletes believe that their peers drink more than they do (Doumas & Haustveit, 2008; Doumas, Haustveit, & Coll, 2010), and perceived peer alcohol use is the best predictor of alcohol use among student athletes (Hummer, LaBrie, & Lac, 2009). Although these explanations provide some insight into the social influences on drinking patterns of student athletes, a gap remains in identifying which student athletes may be most vulnerable to these social variables and if there are differences between White student athletes and student athletes of color.

A growing body of research has identified drinking motives as an important individual predictor of heavy drinking and alcohol-related problems. Drinking motives represent reasons to drink, or the function of alcohol use, and have been conceptualized across two underlying dimensions: positively or negatively reinforcing motives and internal or external motives (Cox & Klinger, 1988). …

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