Understanding college student spring break drinking: Demographic considerations, perceived norms and travel characteristics

Irene Geisner, Angela Mittmann, Elisa Sheng, Tracy Herring, Melissa Lewis, Christine Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Research has documented normative perceptions of others' alcohol use and how these related to increased rates of drinking and related problems among college students. Recently, research has expanded this concept to specific events (21st birthday drinking and tailgating). No studies to date examine the construct of normative perceptions of alcohol use for spring break (SB). SB is a known time of risk for increased alcohol use, and understanding whether students overestimate SB drinking norms, variables that influence norms perceptions (gender, ethnicity and travel) and whether SB norms relate to one's own drinking can inform future prevention and intervention efforts. We extend the literature by examining SB normative perceptions: (1) whether or not these perceptions are accurate and (2) the relationship to students' own drinking and related consequences. A random sample (N = 1583) of students were asked about their SB drinking, consequences and norm perceptions. Students' SB drinking in this study was lower than their perception of typical student SB drinking (p < 0.001), and women's perceptions were higher than men's (p < 0.001). After adjusting for demographics and typical drinking, SB norms were significantly associated with SB drinking among those taking a trip over SB (p < 0.001). After controlling for SB drinking, SB drinking norms were unrelated to consequences. Similar misperceptions exist for SB drinking. Prevention and intervention efforts aimed at reducing SB drinking and consequences, particularly for those planning a trip, may incorporate SB specific social norms education.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)238-245
Number of pages8
JournalAddiction Research and Theory
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2015


  • College students
  • Drinking norms
  • Event-specific drinking
  • Spring break


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