No Man Is An Island: The Associations Between Social Networks, Acculturation, And Drinking Among College Students

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2020-12

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Abstract

Acculturation is a key determinant of alcohol use outcomes among minority undergraduates. These individuals are challenged with navigating the drinking norms of not just the culture of their heritage and the American mainstream culture, but also the college drinking culture. However, individuals do not learn about these norms and expectations on their own: Acculturation is an intercultural and, therefore, an interpersonal process. Despite this, current measures of acculturation look within individuals and do not probe how social interactions and relationships between individuals can facilitate change in cultural identity and values. The current study aimed to reconcile this shortcoming by incorporating social network analysis to examine how important others can influence drinking and cultural attitudes and behaviors among minority undergraduates. It was hypothesized that the association between perceived student drinking norms and drinking would be stronger for those who were more acculturated. It was also hypothesized that the association between perceived cultural norms and drinking would be stronger for those who were more enculturated and that these effects would stronger among those with a culturally similar social network. Additional analyses examined how these relationships may vary by cultural background. A total of 393 undergraduates completed measures related to demographics, personal social networks, drinking attitudes and behaviors, as well as acculturation and enculturation. Results did not support hypotheses relating to norms and acculturation/enculturation variables when cultural background was not accounted for within the model. Further, network cultural homophily was initially not found to interact with norms and enculturation. However, accounting for cultural background revealed that there were acculturation effects on perceived norms and drinking that varied by cultural background. After accounting for cultural background, network cultural homophily was found to moderate associations between enculturation and perceived cultural drinking norms, though the direction of the moderation varied by cultural background. The findings add to the current literature of acculturation by examining the effects of norms on drinking behavior, as well as how this may be affected by whom individuals interact.

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Keywords

drinking, acculturation, social norms, social networks

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