How Estimation of Drinking Influences Alcohol-Related Consequences Across the First Year of College

Authors

  • Brittney A. Hultgren,

    Corresponding author
    1. Prevention Research Center, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania
    • Reprint requests: Brittney A. Hultgren, M.S., Prevention Research Center, The Pennsylvania State University, 219 Biobehavioral Health Building, University Park, PA 16802; Tel.: 814-865-5220; Fax: 814-865-0612; E-mail: bhultgren@psu.edu

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  • Michael J. Cleveland,

    1. Prevention Research Center, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania
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  • Rob Turrisi,

    1. Prevention Research Center, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania
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  • Kimberly A. Mallett

    1. Prevention Research Center, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania
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Abstract

Background

This study examined how well students estimate their overall drinker type and the relation between the accuracy of this estimation with alcohol-related consequences. The study also explored the association between psychosocial alcohol variables and underestimation or overestimation of drinker type.

Methods

College students (= 1,895) completed questionnaires at baseline (precollege matriculation) assessing self-reported drinker types (SI), protective and risky drinking behaviors, drinking expectancies, attitudes, and norms. Postbaseline assessment occurred during the fall semester sophomore year and included the number and type of alcohol consequences experienced during the previous year. Students' SIs were coded as accurate, overestimated, or underestimated relative to their empirically derived latent class analytic drinker class. The association between drinker type accuracy and consequences and membership in the high-risk Multiple and Repeated Consequence group was assessed, as was the relationship between the psychosocial alcohol variables and accuracy.

Results

Eighteen percent of students underestimated and 10% overestimated their drinker type. Students who under- or overestimated their drinker type reported experiencing more consequences, even after controlling for drinking. Increases in positive alcohol expectancies, protective and risky drinking behaviors, and descriptive peer norms were positively associated with underestimation of drinker type. Only protective and risky drinking behaviors were associated with overestimation.

Conclusions

This study underscores the importance of accurate estimation of drinker type and the risk of experiencing alcohol consequences. Future research and intervention strategies are discussed.

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