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J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2011 Jul;72(4):633-41.

Daily relationship between event-specific drinking norms and alcohol use: a four-year longitudinal study.

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Department of Community Medicine and Health Care, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, 06030-6325, USA.



This study examined how social-influence processes operate during specific drinking contexts as well as the stability and change in these processes throughout the college years.


Using a measurement-burst design, a hybrid of longitudinal and daily diary methods, we assessed the relationship between event-specific descriptive drinking norms and personal drinking. College students (N = 523) completed a baseline survey followed by a 30-day daily diary each year for up to the 4 study years. The baseline survey assessed participant gender and social anxiety, and the daily survey assessed personal drinking and perceived peer drinking (i.e., event-specific descriptive norms) during social drinking events.


Multilevel modeling revealed that men's social drinking slightly increased over the 4 years, whereas women's drinking remained steady. Further, on social drinking days when event-specific descriptive norms were high, students drank more, but this relationship was stronger for men than women and did not change over time. However, men's drinking norm perceptions increased across years, whereas women's decreased. Social anxiety did not moderate the relationship between norms and drinking.


We demonstrate that although gender differences exist in the stability and change of personal drinking, norms, and normative influence on drinking across the years of college, the acute social influence of the norm on personal drinking remains a stable and important predictor of drinking throughout college. Our findings can assist with the identification of how, when, and for whom to target social influence-based interventions aimed at reducing drinking.

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