The Relationship of Family and Peer Factors to College Students’ Alcohol Use



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Research suggests that family functioning, parents and peer groups are associated with alcohol use among college students. Previous studies have examined the variables independent of each other. The goal of this study was to examine the combined and unique contribution of parental, familial and peer variables to alcohol use among college students. Participants were 300 undergraduate drinkers from four major ethnic groups (White, Asian, Hispanic, and Black) Participants’ age ranged from 17 to 29 and included freshman through seniors. Parental, peer, and student alcohol related behaviors were assessed with items selected from an adapted instrument by Power, Stewart, Hughes, and Arbona (2004). Participants’ perceptions of family functioning were assessed with the Family Assessment Device (FAD; Epstein, Baldwin, & Bishop, 1983). Reasons for drinking were assessed with the five scales developed by Stewart and Power (2001). Ethanol rates were measured with questions that asked participants to report how many glasses of beer, wine, hard liquor and mixed drinks they had consumed in the last four weeks (Wiesner, Silbereisen, & Weichold, 2008). The current study had four main research questions: 1) To examine to what extent parental alcohol related behaviors are associated to student alcohol use outcomes, when controlling for peers’ alcohol related behaviors. 2) To examine the combined and unique contributions of the six dimensions of family functioning assessed by the FAD to alcohol use outcomes, controlling for parental and peer drinking behaviors. 3) To examine mean differences in reasons for drinking among students who report high and low levels of global family functioning. Peer drinking will be used as a covariate. 4) To examine to what extent level of endorsement of each of the reasons for drinking is associated with the alcohol outcomes. Results revealed that parental drinking behaviors contributed a statistically significant amount of unique variance to alcohol use. Family functioning, specifically behavior control, contributed a statistically significant amount of variance to students’ alcohol use. Results also indicated that some reasons for drinking were uniquely associated to level of family functioning and were significantly correlated with alcohol consumption. Implications of the findings are discussed.



Family, Peers, Alcohol, College students, Family functioning, Family assessment device, Risk behaviors