College status, Perceived drinking norms, and alcohol use among sexual minority women

Christine M. Lee, Jessica Blayney, Isaac C. Rhew, Melissa A. Lewis, Debra Kaysen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Lesbian, gay, and bisexual young adults are at elevated risk for drinking compared with heterosexual young adults, and this discrepancy is particularly striking for sexual minority women (SMW). Perceived social norms are strong predictors of young adult alcohol use, especially among college students. The college environment is often where increases in alcohol use are seen, but the impact of college status on SMW's drinking has been understudied. The present study explored patterns of alcohol use and consequences among SMW and the extent to which social norms relate to use and consequences. Participants were recruited via social networking sites for a larger national study on SMW's health behaviors. Present analyses focused on 875 SMW between 18 and 25 who were categorized as either a 2-year college student (n = 196), 4-year college student (n = 418), or nonstudent (n = 261). Several differences emerged between college and noncollege SMW, with noncollege women reporting higher alcohol use and social norms compared with 4-year college women. In terms of alcohol-related consequences, students in both 2-year and 4-year colleges reported a higher likelihood of any consequences. There was some evidence that perceived norms partially explained differences in typical drinking among the college status groups. The present findings suggest that college may play a protective role against heavy drinking for this population of young women; however, the results are not straightforward, and additional research is warranted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)104-112
Number of pages9
JournalPsychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2016


  • Alcohol use
  • Perceived drinking norms
  • Sexual minority women


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