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Perceived and actual binge drinking norms predict college student binge drinking frequency

A new study examined the association between actual and perceived peer drinking and participant drinking, and the possible moderating effect of resistance to peer influence (RPI). Participants (N = 1323) were college students enrolled in their first semester at a private university in the northeastern U.S. Participants completed an online survey which included measures assessing demographics, resistance to peer influence, personal binge drinking frequency, perceived binge drinking frequency of up to 10 important peers in their first-year, and actual binge drinking frequency of the important peers (actual norms). The authors used network correlation models to examine cross-sectional relationships between participant’s binge drinking frequency and the perceived and actual binge drinking frequency of important peers followed by testing the moderate role of RPI. Results showed that the frequency of participant binge drinking episodes was negatively associated with total RPI, but positively associated with the perceived and actual frequency of binge drinking of important peers in the past 30 days. Similarly, the perceived and actual binge drinking frequencies of important peers were significantly positively associated. The perception of important peers’ frequency of binge drinking was positively associated with participant binge drinking frequency (p < 0.001). Similarly, important peers’ actual frequency of binge drinking was positively associated with participant binge drinking frequency (p < 0.001). There was also a significant interaction between total RPI score and the perceived frequency of binge drinking among important peers. For participants with high perceived frequency of peer binge drinking, those with high RPI had lower binge drinking than those with low RPI (p < 0.001). For participants with low perceived frequency of peer binge drinking, there was no difference in participant drinking between those with low and high RPI (p = 0.73). In addition, there was no significant interaction between total RPI score and actual frequency of important peers’ binge drinking episodes.

Take away: This study found that perceived and actual peer binge drinking were statistically significant predictors of participant binge drinking frequency in the past month. In addition, resistance to peer influence significantly moderated the association between perceptions of peer binge drinking and participant’s own binge drinking.

DiGuiseppi, G. T., Meisel, M. K., Balestrieri, S., Ott, M. Q., Cox, M. J., Clark, M. A., & Barnett, N. P. (2017). Resistance to peer influence moderates the relationship between perceived (but not actual) peer norms and binge drinking in a college student social network. Addictive Behaviors.

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