Injunctive Norms and Alcohol Consumption: A Revised Conceptualization

Heather Krieger, Clayton Neighbors, Melissa A. Lewis, Joseph W. Labrie, Dawn W. Foster, Mary E. Larimer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Background: Injunctive norms have been found to be important predictors of behaviors in many disciplines with the exception of alcohol research. This exception is likely due to a misconceptualization of injunctive norms for alcohol consumption. To address this, we outline and test a new conceptualization of injunctive norms and personal approval for alcohol consumption. Traditionally, injunctive norms have been assessed using Likert scale ratings of approval perceptions, whereas descriptive norms and individual behaviors are typically measured with behavioral estimates (i.e., number of drinks consumed per week, frequency of drinking). This makes comparisons between these constructs difficult because they are not similar conceptualizations of drinking behaviors. The present research evaluated a new representation of injunctive norms with anchors comparable to descriptive norms measures. Methods: A study and a replication were conducted including 2,559 and 1,189 undergraduate students from 3 different universities. Participants reported on their alcohol-related consumption behaviors, personal approval of drinking, and descriptive and injunctive norms. Personal approval and injunctive norms were measured using both traditional measures and a new drink-based measure. Results: Results from both studies indicated that drink-based injunctive norms were uniquely and positively associated with drinking, whereas traditionally assessed injunctive norms were negatively associated with drinking. Analyses also revealed significant unique associations between drink-based injunctive norms and personal approval when controlling for descriptive norms. Conclusions: These findings provide support for a modified conceptualization of personal approval and injunctive norms related to alcohol consumption and, importantly, offer an explanation and practical solution for the small and inconsistent findings related to injunctive norms and drinking in past studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1083-1092
Number of pages10
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 May 2016


  • Alcohol Consumption
  • Descriptive Norms
  • Injunctive Norms


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