July 1995

Relation of Alcohol Expectancies to Changes in Problem Drinking Among College Students

Author Affiliations

From the Division of Adolescent Medicine, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn.

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1995;149(7):733-739. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1995.02170200023003

Objective:  To evaluate the relation between alcohol expectancies and problem drinking during 3 years of college.

Design:  Cohort with 3-year follow-up.

Setting:  Private university campus.

Participants:  A random sample of 260 students entered a longitudinal study of alcohol use at the beginning of their freshman year. One hundred eighty-four students completed follow-up measures at the end of their junior year. Respondents were 90% white, with a mean (±SD) age of 17.9±0.5 years.

Interventions:  None.

Main Outcome Measures:  A standardized measure of expectations and subjective evaluations of outcomes associated with drinking, quantity and frequency of alcohol use, and a composite measure of alcohol-related problems.

Results:  Students were divided into nondrinking, low-risk, and high-risk groups for problem drinking. A repeated-measures multivariate analysis of variance indicated significant interaction effects for risk group by expectancy scale (P<.009) and for expectancy scale by time (P<.001). The three risk groups differed significantly from each other on positive outcome expectations at entry into college and positive expectations and negative outcome evaluations at the end of the junior year. Students who became problem drinkers during college had significantly higher positive outcome expectation scores at both times and developed less concern for negative outcomes by the end of their junior year. The few initial problem drinkers who moderated their drinking during college demonstrated an increased concern for negative outcomes by their junior year.

Conclusions:  Alcohol expectancies are associated with differing patterns of alcohol use and are longitudinally related to subsequent changes in alcohol use and problem drinking.(Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1995;149:733-739)