The influence of parental communication about the negative effects of alcohol on college students' alcohol use

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2004-12-08

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Many college students experience negative effects of excessive and underage drinking. Parental influences have been found capable of delaying adolescent drinking and reducing riskier adolescent drinking behaviors. However, there has been little investigation regarding the influence of parents on the drinking behaviors of college students while students are at school. A web-based survey was conducted with 265 University of Maryland first-year students who were18-19 years old and living in residence halls. Focus groups (n=12), observed pre-tests and in-depth interviews (n=5), pilot tests (n=4), an alpha test, and expert review (n=5) were conducted to assist in the development of the web-based survey. It was hypothesized that: 1) students who report greater parental communication regarding the negative effects of alcohol are less likely to report problem drinking than students who report less communication, 2) the association between communication and problem drinking is mediated by constructs borrowed from the Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA), 3) the association between communication and problem drinking is mediated by constructs borrowed from the Health Belief Model (HBM), 4) the association between communication and problem drinking is mediated by constructs borrowed from both the TRA and HBM, 5) the association between communication and problem drinking is best explained by the model incorporating constructs from both the TRA and the HBM. Logistic regression was conducted to test the first hypothesis. Path analysis and structural equation modeling were used to test hypotheses two through four. Models were qualitatively compared to test hypothesis five. Results of logistic regression indicated that there was no significant direct relationship between parent-child alcohol communication and problem drinking. Structural equation modeling revealed that the relationship between communication and problem drinking was mediated by attitude toward alcohol. Students whose parents talked with them more about the negative effects of alcohol held more favorable attitudes toward alcohol (p = -0.13, p < 0.05). In turn, students holding more favorable attitudes toward alcohol experienced more drinking problems (p = 0.19, p < 0.05). The TRA model was determined to be the model that best explained the relationship between communication and problem drinking. Possible explanations for unexpected findings are discussed.

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