Online Program

Perceived norms and alcohol use within college student-athletes' friendship networks

Monday, November 2, 2015

Kelley Massengale, MPH, Public Health Education, UNCG, Greensboro, NC
Alice Ma, MPH, CHES, Public Health Education, University of North Carolina Greensboro, Greensboro, NC
Kelly Rulison, PhD, Department of Public Health Education, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC
David L. Wyrick, PhD, Public Health Education, University of North Carolina Greensboro, Greensboro, NC
Background: Perceived norms on alcohol use predict college students’ use. College student-athletes are at particular risk for heavy alcohol use, thus it is important to identify factors that predict their use. Although friends shape student-athletes’ alcohol use, limited research has tested whether perceived norms from different types of friends are differentially associated with alcohol use. This study (1) describes college student-athletes’ friendship context and (2) tests whether different perceived norms are associated with alcohol use.

 Methods: In 2013, 2,625 college student-athletes participating in NCAA sports completed surveys for myPlaybook, an online drug prevention program. Using baseline data, we tested whether perceptions of friends’ drinking (descriptive norms) and perceptions of friends’ approval of drinking (injunctive norms) independently predicted student-athletes’ alcohol use.

 Results: First, college student-athletes spent approximately 5 hours per week in-person and 2 hours per week online with each friend; they spent more time in-person (but less time online) with teammate and first-year friends.  Second, the associations between college student-athletes’ perceived norms and alcohol use depended on the type of friend.  Perceived descriptive norms from first-year friends (β=0.290) and injunctive norms from upperclassmen (β=0.212) on drinking significantly predicted alcohol use.  Both descriptive (β=0.226) and injunctive (β=0.131) norms from teammates (β=0.175) and most influential friends (β=0.167) significantly predicted alcohol use, whereas only descriptive norms from non-team friends (β=0.176) and less influential friends (β=0.226) significantly predicted alcohol use.

 Conclusions: Athletics departments’ alcohol policies and prevention programming for college student-athletes should address the potential influence of different types of friends on alcohol use.

Learning Areas:

Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Program planning

Learning Objectives:
Describe college student-athletes’ perceptions of alcohol use among their friendship networks. Identify the characteristics of student-athletes’ perceived friendship context that are associated with drinking behaviors.

Keyword(s): Alcohol Use, College Students

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: During both graduate research methods courses and an independent research project, I conducted statistical analyses, including social network analysis, on the data for which this abstract is derived.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.