Not all drinking events are the same: Exploring 21st birthday and typical alcohol expectancies as a risk factor for high-risk drinking and alcohol problems

Irene Markman Geisner, Isaac C. Rhew, Jason J. Ramirez, Melissa E. Lewis, Mary E. Larimer, Christine M. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations


Alcohol expectancies are a central construct in understanding college student typical alcohol use. However, to our knowledge, there is no research addressing how alcohol expectancies for specific events (i.e. 21st birthday) are different from expectancies regarding typical drinking. We examine the extent to which 21st birthday alcohol expectancies differ from general alcohol expectancies and how 21st birthday expectancies are associated with actual alcohol use and consequences experienced on 21st birthdays, above and beyond expectancies for typical drinking. Participants were college students (N = 585; 54% women) who were turning 21 within a week, and intended to drink 4/5 (female/male) drinks on their birthday. All negative expectancies (impairment, risk and aggression, negative self-perception) and positive expectancies (social, liquid courage, sex) except tension reduction were significantly greater for 21st birthday drinking than for typical drinking. While 21st birthday expectancies were not uniquely related to actual birthday drinking, several positive and negative 21st birthday expectancy subscales were associated with 21st birthday drinking-related consequences, even when controlling for typical drinking expectancies. Expectancy challenge interventions aimed specifically at these subscales may be effective at attenuating alcohol-related consequences that result from 21st birthday drinking.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-101
Number of pages5
JournalAddictive Behaviors
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2017



  • 21st birthday
  • Alcohol expectancies
  • College students
  • Event-specific drinking

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