Alcohol abuse as a rite of passage: The effect of beliefs about alcohol and the college experience on undergraduates’ drinking behaviors

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Journal of Drug Education

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Qualitative studies of alcohol’s ritual influences indicate that college undergraduates who drink heavily tend to view alcohol use as integral to the student role and feel entitled to drink irresponsibly. Our analyses, based on a standardized measure of these beliefs administered to approximately 300 students, confirmed these findings. Among our sample, beliefs about alcohol and the college experience had an effect on levels of alcohol consumption similar in magnitude to that of other variables commonly associated with a risk for heavy drinking. Moreover, the alcohol beliefs index moderated the effects of three risk factors—gender, high school drinking, and friends’ use of alcohol—on respondents’ drinking behaviors. These findings arc discussed within the context of the anthropological literature on liminality and rites of passage and with regard to strategies for intervention that address the structural roots of the widespread abuse of alcohol on college campuses.


The version of record can be found through Journal of Drug Education.