A closer look at the impact of peer influences on college drinking: Testing moderation of normative drinking perceptions by social network characteristics
Farrow, Sherry M.
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The present study was designed to examine relationships between drinking norms and alcohol use among college students while considering the role of both interpersonal and intrapersonal moderators of this relationship. College students (N=127) who drank at least once during the previous three months reported on their alcohol use, their attitudes toward drinking, perceived drinking norms, relational self-construal, and demographics. Detailed information pertaining to participants' drinking and support social networks were elicited via an interview. It was hypothesized that perceived norms would be related to drinking such that norms reflecting higher levels of alcohol use would be related to more alcohol consumption. This hypothesis was supported. Additionally, the direct and moderating influence of social network characteristics (i.e., size, density, functioning) on alcohol use were examined in a series of regression models. In models not including the influence of norms, drinking networks that were larger were predictive of higher levels of alcohol use. Closeness with network members predicted higher levels of binge drinking. When norms were included in the models, only minimal support was found for the moderating influence of social network characteristics. Satisfaction within the drinking network moderated the influence of norms on alcohol use such that for males, there was stronger normative influence for those high in satisfaction. Relational self-construal was hypothesized as an intrapersonal moderator of norms. This was true for males only, such that higher levels of relational self-construal were related to stronger norm conformity. The present study represents the first step in understanding the complex impact of social networks on alcohol use among college students.