Reciprocal Relationships over Time between Descriptive Norms and Alcohol Use in Young Adult Sexual Minority Women

Dana M. Litt, Melissa A. Lewis, Isaac C. Rhew, Kimberley A. Hodge, Debra L. Kaysen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Young adulthood, roughly ages 18-25, is a period of great risk for excessive consumption of alcohol, especially among sexual minority women (SMW). Despite the substantial literature examining the relationships between social norms and behavior in general, little attention has been given to the role of descriptive norms on the drinking behaviors of sexual minorities. The present study had 3 aims: to compare both typical woman descriptive norms and sexual minority-specific descriptive normative perceptions among a sample of SMW, to examine reciprocal associations between sexual minority-specific descriptive norms and alcohol consumption over time, and to examine whether these reciprocal associations were moderated by sexual orientation (i.e., whether 1 identifies as lesbian or bisexual). A national sample of 1,057 lesbian and bisexual women between the ages of 18 and 25 was enrolled in this study. Participants completed an online survey at 4 time points that assessed the constructs of interest. Results indicated that SMW consistently perceived that SMW drank more than their nonsexual minority peers; that SMW-specific descriptive drinking norms and alcohol consumption influenced 1 another over time in a reciprocal, feed-forward fashion; and that these associations were not moderated by sexual orientation. These findings highlight the importance of considering SMW-specific norms as an important factor in predicting alcohol consumption in SMW. Results further support the development and testing of normative interventions for high-risk drinking among SMW.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)885-893
Number of pages9
JournalPsychology of Addictive Behaviors
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2015


  • alcohol
  • descriptive norms
  • longitudinal
  • sexual minority women


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