Academic journal article Journal of Alcohol & Drug Education

Attitudes and Descriptive Norms of Alcohol-Related Problems as Predictors of Alcohol Use among College Students

Academic journal article Journal of Alcohol & Drug Education

Attitudes and Descriptive Norms of Alcohol-Related Problems as Predictors of Alcohol Use among College Students

Article excerpt


Background: The purpose of this study is to identify predictors of alcohol use based on personal values and several constructs from the Integrated Behavioral Model (i.e., attitudes, injunctive norms and descriptive norms) among undergraduate college students.

Methods: A cross sectional study design was used with a convenience sample of college students. Researchers administered a self-reported instrument to students who were enrolled at a large, public university in the Southeastern United States (US) in fall 2010 (n=910). Backward stepwise multiple regression analysis was used to examine which of the independent variables (i.e., personal values, attitudes, perceived norms related to alcohol use and alcohol-related problems) and demographic variables were predictive of alcohol use. Results: The overall model explained 45.6% of the variance of average drinks per week and included the following significant predictors: Greek involvement, gender, attitudes, and descriptive norms of alcohol-related problems.

Conclusions: Understanding predictors of alcohol use can help health educators and other health professionals tailor interventions to college-aged students.

Keywords: predictors of alcohol use, college alcohol, descriptive norms of alcohol-related problems, attitudes towards alcohol


Heavy alcohol consumption remains a major health concern on college campuses (Johnston, O'Malley, Bachman, & Schulenberg, 2009). Data collected by the Core Institute for 2010 revealed that approximately 82% of college students consumed alcohol in the past 12 months, 69% consumed alcohol in the past 30 days and 44% engaged in heavy drinking at least once in the last two weeks (Core Institute, 2012). The theoretical framing of this project comprises three constructs from the Integrated Behavioral Model (IBM) (Fishbein, vonHaeften, & Appleyard, 2001), attitudes, injunctive norms, and descriptive norms. In addition to the IBM constructs, 10 motivationally distinct values taken from the Theory of Basic Human Values will be used (Schwartz, 1992; Schwartz, Melech, Lehmann, Burgess, Harris, & Owens, 2001).

Relatively few published studies have examined the relationship between personal values and alcohol consumption (Kropp, Lavack, & Holden, 1999; Schwartz et al., 2001), and even fewer studies have looked at the relationships between personal values, attitudes towards alcohol use, norms related to alcohol use and alcohol-related outcomes and personal alcohol use (Chawla, Neighbors, Lewis, Lee, & Larimer; Martinez, Munoz Garcia, & Sher, 2009). To understand how these constructs are related, first, it is important to understand their meaning.

Values and attitudes are distinct concepts. Values are essentially goals that span across situations to become an overarching belief that guides an individual's life (Schwartz, 1992). The 10 values according to the Schwartz's (1992) Theory of Basic Human Value are Power, Achievement, Hedonism, Stimulation, Self-direction, Universalism, Benevolence, Tradition, Conformity, and Security. A description of these values can be found in Table 1.

In contrast, attitudes refer to an individual's evaluation, either positive or negative, of a specific behavior or situation (Fishbein et al., 2001). Attitudes are related to a specific "thing," while values are not specific to a "thing," but values help an individual make life decisions. Personal attitudes have been identified as an influencing factor on alcohol use (Martinez et al., 2009); however, published research articles often focus on variables such as alcohol expectancies and drinking motivations rather than attitudes (Chawla et al., 2007).

In addition to attitudes, injunctive and descriptive norms are construct in the Integrated Behavioral Model (Fishbein et al., 2001). According to Larimer, Turner, Mallett, and Geisner (2004), injunctive norms are attitudes or behaviors that are judged acceptable, expected, or correct within a social system, while descriptive norms are the perceived quantity and frequency of peer engagement in a specific behavior such as drinking alcohol. …

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