What Matters: Reality or Perception? The Impact of Peer Binging on College Students Drinking Behaviors

ImpacTeen Research Papers

What Matters: Reality or Perception? The Impact of Peer Binging on College Students Drinking Behaviors

Wolaver A, Ciecierski C, Powell L

Universities have widely varying rates of heavy drinking, raising the question, “Do peers influence individual decisions to binge drink?” This study examines the impacts of peer perceptions of collegial drinking on binge drinking levels across U.S. college campuses. The analysis employs data stemming from the 1993, 1997, 1999 and 2001 College Alcohol Studies. Descriptive statistics indicate that more students tend to underestimate the rate of binging than overestimate it, violating a key assumption of advocates of social norming policy. Student beliefs about the rate of drinking track loosely with the actual rate of binging at their schools, but the rate of overestimating binge drinking falls as the actual rate of binging increases, implying that social norming policies might have the best chance of success at schools with the least amount of problems. Results stemming from econometric analyses do not provide substantial evidence in favor of these policies. However, results provide evidence that educating students on what actually constitutes binge drinking so that they better understand how much is too much may help to reduce heavy drinking practices among college students. Clearly characterizing the definition of excessive drinking may be a worthwhile lesson for college orientation.

Research Paper (PDF – 673KB)

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