Parental Divorce and Consequences of Drinking among College Students

By Billingham, Robert E.; Wilson, William et al. | College Student Journal, September 1999 | Go to article overview

Parental Divorce and Consequences of Drinking among College Students


Billingham, Robert E., Wilson, William, Gross, William C., College Student Journal


One thousand four hundred ninety-five (590 men and 905 women) undergraduate students completed an anonymous questionnaire which included sections on both alcohol consumption and the consequences associated with drinking. Analysis of variance procedures revealed that men scored significantly higher than women on all three dependent variable, i.e. amount of alcohol consumed (p [is less than] .001), total consequences of drinking score (p [is less than] .001) and total number of consequences checked (p [is less than] .001). Individuals from divorced families differed significantly from individuals from intact families only on the total number of consequences checked (p [is less than] .05). Additional Chi-square analyses revealed that individuals from divorced families were more likely to select drinking and driving consequences; "driving after several drinks": (p [is less than] .05), "driven KNOWING had too much to drink" (p [is less than] .01), "drinking while driving" (p [is less than] .01) and school performance consequences; "gotten a lower grade due to drinking too much (p [is less than] .01) than were individuals from intact families. These results suggest that experiencing the divorce of one's parents is related to negative consequences of drinking in college that are more subtle, yet more problematic, than simple issues such as "amount of alcohol consumed."

While there is a plethora of research on college student drinking, and the issues related to their drinking, there continues to be a dearth of literature related to the role that parental divorce may play in the issues related to alcohol consumption among college students. This is particularly surprising in light of the fact that parental divorce and alcohol consumption has been well documented among adolescent populations in both American (Doherty and Needle, 1991; Kalter, 1977; Workman and Beer, 1992;) and European (Aro, 1988; Wadsby and Svedin, 1993) samples. This relationship has also been observed among post-college aged populations (Hope, Power and Rogers, 1998; Kuh, and Maclean, 1990; Landerman, George, and Blazer, 1991).

What little research that has been conducted on the topic of parental divorce and alcohol consumption among college students seems to indicate no relationship between parental divorce and alcohol problems. Billingham, Post and Gross, (1993) found no difference in the amount of alcohol consumed when college students from divorced and intact families were compared; and Pardeck, (1991), also using a general college population, found no relationship between family structure and potential for alcohol abuse. Perhaps it is because there are no observable differences between college students from divorced and intact families on these more global measures of alcohol consumption that research in this area has not been examined more completely.

The purpose of the present study was to go beyond a simple analysis of whether or not the amount of alcohol consumed by students from intact differs from that consumed by students from divorced families. To do so, we sought to examine whether family structure was related to the consequences associated with college student drinking. The hypotheses which guided this study were: 1) There would be no difference in the amount of alcohol consumed by individuals from divorced and intact families. 2) There would be no difference in either the Total Results of Drinking Score or in the Total number of results of drinking items checked on the Results of Drinking Chick-list when individuals from intact and divorced families were compared.

Methods

Sample.

The total sample of 1894 students (761 men, 1131 women and two missing data) came from a Midwestern university with an undergraduate population of approximately 25,000 students. The sample included all of the students who had enrolled in any section of an undergraduate class of Personal Health during the Fall and Winter semesters during the 1997-1998 academic year. …

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