College women reflect on the role of alcohol in "managing emotions" during their freshman year living on campus
Logsdon, Karen E.
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This study explored the role of alcohol in the emotional development of college women during their first year living on campus. The field of alcohol research is currently dominated by large-scale surveys focusing primarily on high-risk drinking among male students. Research examining college women's alcohol use has been limited and has not addressed the psychosocial context and environment pertaining to women's experiences. The research was guided by Chickering and Reisser's (1993) psychosocial development theory, vector two, "managing emotions." Data collection methods included individual interviews of eleven female sophomore students during the spring semester of 2009. Participants reflected on their freshman year adjustment both academic and social along with their drinking experiences. The findings suggest that alcohol provided a mechanism for meeting new peers, an environment for socializing in a friendly atmosphere and a form of stress relief. In addition, participants drank as a means of coping with negative emotions. Four major themes emerged from the data analysis which are: (a) Drinking as an opportunity to build social networks; (b) Drinking to get drunk: But not too drunk; (c) Drinking as a means of seeking social support for emotions; and (d) Drinking experiences that led to personal development. This exploratory study supports previous research findings that subgroups of women are drinking and engaging in binge drinking to cope with stressors, negative emotions and failed relationships. This research is limited in terms of its application to all college women; instead, it offers a broader understanding of the role of alcohol in psychosocial development of first-year college women. However, these findings indicate that first-year college women may benefit from a structured means of gaining social and emotional support. Implications for approaching alcohol prevention in a gender-specific manner are discussed, in addition to recommendations for future studies. Keywords : college women, managing emotions, alcohol use