Inuniversities across the United States, students are consuming alcohol at ratesthat are leading to alcohol poisoning, dangerously impaired decision making,and even death. Students and emergency workers on campus see it weekly, thepublic sees it on the news monthly, and yet few changes are being made toaddress the problem. There a variety of different reasons why a student abusesalcohol, whether it is binge drinking or a casual drink here and there, oftentimes this alcohol consumption is done under pressure to fit in with theirpeers. On a college campus, trying to find your place within the socialhierarchy can lead individuals to many pressure ridden possibilities.
Misconceptionsof social norms on college campuses, parental influence, as well as genderimplications can also serve as influencers when it comes to excessive alcoholuse. It is because of these facts that I will be investigating how the fear ofnot fitting into the social hierarchy of the university affect alcohol abuse.Heavysporadic or what we call binge drinking presents a dangerously severe healthrisk and threat of other consequences for alcohol users and others that are aroundtheir environment. According to surveyfrom the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) theyfound that almost 60 percent of college students ages between the ages of 18and 22 consumed alcohol in the past month, and about two out of three of them wereinvolved with binge drinking behavior during that same time frame (SAMHSA,2014). College scholars were discovered to be more probable to participate in bingedrinking rather than their non-college peers (Johnston et al., 2004).
Also, itwas found that on average, about 40% of college students report having engagedin binge drinking during the last few weeks of college (Johnston et al., 2004).These statistics demonstrate why a university environment is a strong candidatefor characterizing the role of peer influence on alcohol consumption.A socialenvironment encompasses a variety of different social hierarchy levels. Socialhierarchy is described as how individuals and groups are arranged based on manydifferent factors (Sidanius & Pratto, 2001). Every individual isborn into a social and cultural setting that includes things like family,community, and religion, etc. You tend to see significant social hierarchylevels within a high school environment, but the hierarchy levels continue intocollege as well.
A misconception that seems to be portrayed about college isthat it is generally not a popularity contest, unlike what is commonly observedin high schools. Though parts of this are true there are still plenty ofpressures to be ‘cool’ in college. Social categorization is something thattypically comforts us. When you arrive at college you are experiencing highlevels of diversity with individuals from different socioeconomic and culturalbackgrounds. Categorizations within college can be things like sorority girls,fraternity boys, cultural groups, art majors, engineers etc.
Trying to find your’category’ can cause peer pressure to fit in anywhere you are able. Withinthese categories is where alcohol abuse often comes in; for example, members ofsocial fraternities and sororities are at greater risk than other students to engagein high-risk drinking and substance use (Alva, 1998).Peerpressure is typically utilized in reference to younger individuals, especiallythose whom are in college. When a student is entering college, it can be a lotmore difficult to avoid peer pressure because you are now officially on yourown, and don’t have parental figures to fall back on.
Reacting to peer pressureis a natural human response that some individuals are more likely to give into, while others are able to resist. Peer pressure is defined as “socialpressure by members of one’s peer group to take a certain action, adopt certainvalues, or otherwise conform in order to be accepted” (Merriam-Webster, 2017).Peers play a substantial role in the development and continuation of alcohol useon college students. Creating your own peer network within a college campusrequires students to submerge themselves within the social environment. Anotherreason as to why there is a strong relationship between college students andalcohol focuses on social opportunities. College culture typically encompassesalcohol in some way, shape, or form. Most students begin drinking alcohol whenthey first arrive on campus.
The first few weeks of freshman year typically arethe most vulnerable times for new college students. This is when heavy drinkingand alcohol-related consequences happen due to student expectations and social burdensat the beginning of the academic year (NIAAA, 2015). College sororities and fraternitiesare also a part of college culture that implement tremendous pressures onstudents. Students that attend schools with prominent Greek systems and withstrong athletic programs tend to drink more than students at other types ofschools. These programs tend to influence future living situations for students.Alcohol consumption is highest among students who live in sororities and fraternitiesand lowest among commuting students who live off campus with their families(NIAAA, 2015).
To furtherunderstand peer pressure and how social opportunities influence drinking behavioron college campuses we can apply it to the differential association theory.Edwin Sutherland developed a theory that focused on how the dominance of socialinfluences and learning experiences can be motives for deviant and criminalbehavior (Sutherland & Cressey, 1960). In this case, it would be the effectof peer pressure on college campuses that influence whether a student partakesin alcohol consumption. Thesedifferential associations may differ in terms of frequency, duration, priorityand intensity. The impact of frequency on a college students drinking behaviormay be in relation to if their roommate drinks on rare occasions or goes outevery weekend. Having a roommate that participates in drinking on a weeklybasis will directly influence that student’s perception of drinking in college.Drinking behavior in this circumstance would be learned through interaction aswell as communication with the roommate.
In terms of duration, this could bedirect influence from long term drinking participation from the roommate aswell as all of the hall mates. Priority can be the most influential associationto influence drinking behavior. If a student believes that the first weekend ofcollege will involve drinking prior to actually entering college they will bemore likely to participate in drinking. As well as if a student attaches theidea that the best way to meet people is through drinking will also increasethe probability of alcohol consumption. Intensity is the final element underdifferential association, this element can be a hard one to explain.
In termsof alcohol consumption, it could be connected to the intensity of emotions andreactions from participating in deviant behavior (underage drinking). Anadditional contributing reason to alcohol consumption on college campuses isbecause of the distinct shift from parental figures to peers when entering intocollege. Abusing alcohol regularly enables the foundation of a new ‘collegestudent’ identity as well as serving as an indicator of freedom from parentalcontrol (Maggs, 1997). Typically, early in a child’s life parents have asubstantial influence on a child’s attitude and behavior (Kandel & Andrews,1987). As these children grow up theytend to spend less time with their parental figures and more time with theirpeers. This process strengthens significantly when they enter college becausethese young adults have lost the intimacy of being surrounded by parentalfigures they then are searching for a peer network to fulfill that source ofsupport and intimacy.We can usethe social control theory to help further our understanding as to why astudent’s upbringing can impact their alcohol consumption on college campuses.
The social control theory explains that an individual’s relationships,commitments, values, norms, and beliefs encourage them to or to not break thelaw or social order (Wiatrowskiet. Al, 1981). The question that the social control theory can helpanswer is how a college student’s background and their pre-collegesocializations can impact their drinking behavior. There are four elements thatbond our society together; beliefs, attachments, involvements, and commitments.
Applying the belief element to drinking on college campuses can be correlatedwith a student’s beliefs shaped by their parents that the less you drink leadsto more success and vice versa. Another correlation with parents can beassociated with the ‘attachment’ element, the student may be too scared toparticipate in drinking because their parents would freak-out if they received anunderage drinking ticket. The involvement and commitment elements are moreindividualized to the student. Possible scenarios could be a student involvedin an organization on campus could impact whether they participate in drinking ornot. And the commitment element connects directly to involvement, the more thestudent is committed to a group or organization on campus the more activities(possible drinking opportunities) they will partake in.
Within BrianBosari and Kate Carey’s 2003 analysis of college drinking norms, they foundthat gender was one characteristic that influenced alcohol consumption incollege environments. Within the research it was found that males were morelikely than females to assume positions towards alcohol use that matched whatthey believed to be normative (Prentice & Miller, 1993). Women were alsofound more likely to be able to resist situational pressures in relation todrinking. Possibly, the reason for this could be that men experience morepressures to drink than females. There is also the idea that women are moreprone to negative consequences, as in rape or sexual assault, which couldconsiderably increase their likelihood to choose to limit alcohol consumptions (Lewis,Rees & Lee, 2009). Another possibility of these gender implications withindrinking is that men are more motivated to react to the sensation of deviancefrom the norm where as women react to deviance with alienation (Prentice , 1993). According to the CDCadult men steadily have higher rates of alcohol related deaths andhospitalizations. Also, it was found that among drivers who are involved infatal motor-vehicle accidents, Men were two times more likely than women to beintoxicated (NHTSA 2010).
Theconnection between male gender norms and alcohol consumption on collegecampuses can be explained by the social identity theory. The research above suggeststhat college males are more involved with heavy drinking and alcohol-related issuesthan college females. In explaining these patterns, we can use the social identitytheory to further our understanding of male gender roles on college campuses.According to the social identity theory, we can come to the conclusion that anindividual’s identity is formed from the group norms of significant groups towhich they belong to (McLeod, 2008). Which in this case would mean males whohave a higher drinking identity may then associate with groups on campus whoare more inclined to participate in heavy drinking. Heavy drinking amongcollege students is directly linked to activities/behaviors related to theconstruction of gender roles.
In most societies, it is culturally accepted formales to consume alcohol at higher rates than females, understanding specificgender roles/traits for males can help explain this. Gender traits for malesconsists of things like aggression and or risk taking (Lemle & Mishkind, 1989).The majority of the events males participate in on campus, prompt them to drinkalcohol, such as socializing in bars, engaging in sporting activities, andcompeting in drinking competitions (Hone et. Al, 2013).
If males are seen notconforming to these gender expectations that can be grounds for marginalizationor rejection. Alcohol consumption on college campuses is used by males toaffirm their masculinity and to fulfill their ‘expected’ drinking identity(West, 2001).Taking afeministic approach, we can understand that alcohol consumption is apatriarchal benefit for males.
Males have more access to drinking spaces thanfemales. Females who engage in ‘masculine style’ alcohol consumption are notseen as harming themselves, they are seen as harming their children, familiesand the society at large. This, therefore causes a societal outcry becausewomen are perceived as the inferior gender that is supposed to demonstrateproper and appropriate behavior at all times.
Dorothy Smith expresses a conceptcalled Bifurcated Consciousness that helps demonstrate how women experience amale dominated world. “Smith uses this term to refer to a separation of splitbetween the world as you actually experience it and the dominant view to whichyou must adapt (masculine point of view)” (A & E, pg.562). In terms ofalcohol consumption this can be connected to the ideology that females don’tparticipate in heavy drinking as much because it is seen as masculine withinour male dominated society. While the dominant group, males, enjoy their patriarchalprivilege to participate in more drinking, their female counterparts will needto adapt to this male dominated society.Theperception of social norms on college campuses have consistently increasedhigh-risk drinking levels within the student population. Drinking behaviorwithin college campuses varies based on how students perceive the ‘norm’drinking behavior of other students. Typically, the more that a studentbelieves that their peers are drinking heavily, or approving of heavy abuse,the higher amount of alcohol that individual will consume (Borsari & Carey,2003).
The idea that students drink more is because they think that “otherpeople are doing it” is not something that is fabricated. However, these ideasthat ‘everyone’ in college is drinking is indeed fabricated. In the fall of2000, Robert Foss of the UNC Highway safety research center conducted anexperiment on college students to measure their blood alcohol concentrationwhen they returned to their homes on what he called ‘party nights’.
His initialfindings were that two out of three students hadn’t consumed any alcohol. Theyalso found that on Monday through Wednesday, over 85% of students had noalcohol in their systems. This test is a crucial example of the inaccuratestigmas in relation to college students and drinking. Implementing moreeducation for students on what the actual social norms are on college campuses coulddecrease student drinking rates. Thoughthere are a multitude of different norms within every college environment.There is direct a correlation between perceived norms and personal alcohol use.Students may justify their alcohol consumption with their perception ofcollegiate norms. Individuals on campus who want to avoid negative backlashfrom their so called “peers” may match their peers’ behavior with thoseperceived norms.
Violating these collegiate norms may make them appear’different’ from their peers, which is unwanted in their new social environment(Borsari & Carey, 2003). Research helps support this idea. Within myfindings, I found that individuals who refrain from alcohol use received lesssocial acceptance than severe to moderate drinkers. From individuals who do then refrain from drinking there isopportunity to find different social opportunities with other individuals whoalso refrain from drinking. Furthermore, students whom fear negative evaluationfrom their peers is a substantial predictor of choosing an alcoholic beveragevs. nonalcoholic (Trice & Beyer, 1977). The ideathat ‘society made me do it’ focuses on a Symbolic Interactionism approach. Wetend to see underage drinking everywhere, whether it’s in high school or incollege.
We also it on television, movies and even with our own peers. Symbolicinteraction is instituted on the development of human interaction in society toformulate meaning for individuals (A & E, pg. 465). Normally, symbolicinteractionists look at the meanings that are attached to our behaviors.However, in this case symbolic interactionist would be analyzing how ourperceived collegiate norms and behaviors influence alcohol consumption. Symbolic interactionism can prove to be veryhelpful in exploring how alcohol can have different meanings for people.
Aperson’s attitude towards drinking is generally influenced by whoever theysurround themselves with. The relations you have with your peer’s help formulateyour thoughts and beliefs towards drinking. Symbolic interactionism anddrinking focus on the social meaning connected to alcohol consumption. Under asymbolic interactionist approach, we can understand that individuals learn newdrinking behaviors through interactions, on and off campus, with otherdrinkers. For a first-time drinker, he or she will learn how and what toexperience when drinking by observing and interacting with the ones aroundthem. Someone’ssubculture can also have a direct influence on behavior related to alcoholabuse. Mass media is a primary example of subculture, seeing an inaccurateportrayal of college culture can detrimentally impact your understanding ofsocial interactions within a college environment. These portrayals seen on theinternet or on the television help formulate the perception that as a collegestudent you are expected to consume alcohol.
Hyperreality is a sociologicalterm that helps understand this. The term hyperreality is explained as “thesocial world we inhabit has become hyperreal, filled with simulations ofreality that replay ‘reality’ itself” (A & E, pg. 608). These portrayals ofcollege on television are direct simulations that influence our reality.Interactions will always be an influencer in regard to drinking behavior oncollege campuses.The present findings presented throughout thispaper propose three plausible hypotheses supported by research as well astheoretical ideas. First, the compiled research was centered on the influenceof peers and social opportunities on drinking behavior. From the differential associationtheory, it was shown that the frequency of drinking activity from both hallmates and roommates as well as the involvement in social groups on campus havea direct connection to alcohol consumption.
A plausible hypothesis to supportthe research would suggest that alcohol consumption on college campuses isdirectly influenced by both social involvements and peer pressure. Anotherfocus of this paper was to present the parental influence and how a student’supbringing could impact their drinking behavior on campus. The research foundexpressed significant impact of parenting on a child’s identity and theapplication of this to the social control theory helped explain it further byconnecting drinking behavior to academic merit.
A potential hypothesis toexplain this is college students who had more authoritative parentalinvolvement are less likely to engage in drinking because of the fear to disappointtheir parents in terms of academic performance and criminal activity. Andfinally, the direct connection between gender and drinking was undeniablypresent through research and theoretical explanation. Both the social identitytheory and a feministic approach support the hypothesis that male collegestudents are more likely to drink on college campuses than female collegestudents because they display a higher drinking identity in regard to affirmingtheir masculinity.