Social context, perceived norms and drinking behavior in young people

Dennis L. Thombs, Bette Jean Wolcott, Lauren G.E. Farkash

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


An anonymous questionnaire was administered to 1,283 middle school/high school students and 930 college students. The students responded to instruments assessing social context of drinking, perceived norms of drinking, alcohol use intensity, and frequencies of impaired driving (DWI) and riding with an impaired driver (RWID). Canonical correlation analyses revealed that in middle school/high school students, there are discernable patterns of association between social context, perceived norm and alcohol abuse measures. Drinking intensity for self was closely related to several social context variables and perceptions of close friends' drinking intensity, whereas RWID and DWI frequencies for self were most strongly associated with different perceived norm variables. Among college students, findings from a canonical analysis showed that both social context and perceived norm variables were related to drinking intensity, though there were not multiple patterns of association among subsets of variables. Overall, the findings indicate that alcohol consumption has linkages to both social context and perceived norms. In contrast, DWI and RWID are closely related only to normative influences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)257-267
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Substance Abuse
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1997


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