Use and correlates of protective drinking behaviors during the transition to college: Analysis of a national sample

Norma Nguyen, Scott T. Walters, Todd M. Wyatt, William DeJong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Objective: This study examined patterns and correlates of protective drinking behaviors among incoming first-year college students. Method: Incoming first-year students (n. = 76,882) from 258 colleges across the U.S. provided baseline data on demographics, drinking practices, and protective behaviors as part of a web-based alcohol education program. Across the several colleges, responses to protective behavior questions were collected from seven weeks before the start of the school year to five weeks after. Results: Factor analysis identified three protective behavior sub-factors: Limit Drinking, Avoid Drinking and Driving, and Intent to Get Drunk. Both Limit Drinking and Avoid Drinking and Driving generally declined over the course of the data collection period while Intent to Get Drunk and peak blood alcohol concentration increased immediately after the start of school. In multiple regression analyses, the number of heavy drinking episodes in the past two weeks had a strong negative association with a Total Protective Behavior Score and the Limit Drinking Score, and a positive association with the Intent to Get Drunk Score. With the exception of the Intent to Get Drunk Score, women were more likely to use protective behaviors than men. Underage drinkers used protective behaviors less often than their of-age peers, though the effect was small. Race/ethnicity, time to matriculation, and intent to join/membership in a fraternity/sorority had negligible effects on protective behavior scores. Conclusions: College students increase risky drinking after the start of school while progressively using fewer behaviors that might mitigate the consequences of drinking.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1008-1014
Number of pages7
JournalAddictive Behaviors
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2011


  • Alcohol
  • Alcohol prevention
  • College students
  • Drinking
  • Protective behaviors


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