Saturday, February 13, 2016

Where do College Drinkers Draw the Line? A Qualitative Study

Alcohol use among college students has received nationwide recognition as a public health concern. The primary aim of this study was to explore students’ opinions of when drinking “crosses the line” from acceptable to unacceptable. This study used qualitative methods to: (a) examine unappealing aspects of drinking by relationship type (potential dating partner, friend, self), and (b) determine whether this differs by gender. Seventy-eight interviews were conducted with college students who violated campus-alcohol policy. The semi-structured interview included open-ended questions related to reactions to other’s excessive drinking. Qualitative analyses revealed that college males and females find lack of control as unappealing, including lack of physical, verbal, and sexual control. More females than males indicated negative perceptions of same-sex friends and self who displayed poor sexual control. Future research might also consider integration of themes in measures of negative expectancies and consequences to more accurately capture unappealing aspects of college drinking behavior.

…This study revealed three primary themes regarding college students’ negative reactions to excessive drinking. These included (a) negative reactions to a lack of control, (b) female participant’s dislike of uncontrolled sexual behavior by self and others, and (c) alcohol-induced aggression. First, the majority of male and female participants found behaviors that indicated a lack of general control (e.g., being “sloppy,” stumbling, impaired consciousness, etc.) as unappealing in a potential dating partner, in same-sex friends, and in oneself...

A second theme emerging from these qualitative interviews related to how females in the sample viewed a lack of sexual control by same-sex friends or themselves such as engaging unplanned sexual behavior, and/or betraying a friend by having relations with his/her romantic partner. Negative perceptions of casual or spontaneous sexual encounters are consistent with data exploring perceptions of casual sexual encounters. Research examining gender differences in sex or “hook-ups” among young adults suggests that females are less likely to report the experience as positive compared to men (). Qualitative data suggest that women are aware of a double standard and believe that other women who engage in casual sex are disrespected and stigmatized (; )...

Third, both male and female students noted that alcohol-induced aggression was a behavior that “crossed the line.” Females identified that dating partners who were sexual aggressive or “pushy” were unattractive, and males indicated that they would lose respect for a same-sex friend who acted in a sexually aggressive way. Acts of sexual aggression and assault are most prevalent among women ages 16–24 years, with an estimated 38% of women reporting some form of sexual violence during the previous academic year (). Furthermore, an estimated 39–50% sexual assault victims and 50% of perpetrators report using alcohol at the time of the assault (; ). More recent estimates have suggested that 96% of drug-related assaults involved use of alcohol prior to assault (). Alcohol use and sexual assault often occur in conjunction with each other; both genders reported prohibitions related to alcohol-induced aggression. Reinforcing these prohibitions may aid in prevention efforts that target early warning signs and ways to avoid situations likely to lead to aggressive behavior…

Full article at:

By:  Danielle L. Terry, M.S., Lorra Garey, B.A., and Kate B. Carey, Ph.D.
Center for Health and Behavior, Syracuse University
Please Address Correspondence To: Danielle K. Seigers or Kate B. Carey, Department of Psychology, Center for Health and Behavior, Syracuse University, 430 Huntington Hall, Syracuse, NY 13244-2340,  ude.rys@regieskd,  ude.rys@yeracbk, Phone: 315-443-2877, Fax: 315-443-4123

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