Young men more likely to cut down on drinking if fathers did not attend college

Binge drinking by students is a problem in both high school and college.  A study in Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation reports that 11.3% of all students reduced drinking between the senior of high school and freshman year of college and that 21.6% of binge drinkers in high school reduced their consumption in freshman year.

What are the characteristics of those who reduced their drinking?  The study found that young men whose fathers did not attend college were more likely to reduce their drinking. Sons whose fathers (and mothers) were heavy and moderate drinkers were far less likely to do so.. Asian and African-American students were more likely to reduce their drinking once they got to college.

Several social factors were also important in alcohol consumption.  Students who placed a high priority on attending parties, having 5 or more good friends and spending time on social activities were less likely to reduce their drinking, as were as those who belonged to sororities and fraternities or lived in coed dorms.

“The results highlight the importance of family background and social environment on reductions in drinking,” the study says.

Substance use also played a role. Recent use of cigarettes and marijuana lowered the odds of reducing drinking but cocaine use had no effect.

Researchers analyzed data from the 1993, 1997, 1999 and 2001 rounds of the Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol survey.  Each year, surveys were sent to random samples of students at up to 140 universities and colleges.  Resulting sample sizes were between 11,000 and 15,000.

Respondents were asked two questions about their alcohol consumption during the senior year of high school:  How many times a month do you drink and how many drinks did you have?  Women who had 4 or more drinks and men who had 5 or more drinks were classified as binge drinkers (non-drinkers were included in the survey responses).

Young men whose fathers did not attend college may be more likely to drink less because they have different expectations of college life, the researchers speculate.  This finding needs further research because it persisted after controlling for income and other characteristics.

 “Factors associated with reductions in alcohol use between high school and college: an analysis of data from the College Alcohol Study,” by Christopher Swann et al, Substance Abuse Rehabilitation,  2014, Volume 5, pp. 13-23.

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