Undergraduate Honours Theses
Emerging adults’ alcohol consumption is strongly influenced by the behaviour and beliefs of their peer group (Arnett, 2005), with individuals tending to behave in ways that are consistent with their peer group’s norms for drinking (Dumas, Wells, Flynn, Lange, & Graham, 2014). Little research, however, has been conducted on moderators of this relationship. Such research is important in order to determine which group members are most at risk of adopting group drinking behaviour. Two studies were conducted to examine emerging adults’ sense of peer group belonging as a moderator of the relationship between peer group and individual drinking behaviour. Study 1 is a concurrent study, with 249 emerging adult participants (Mage = 26.33 years; 49.5% female) who completed an online survey, including a measure of perceived peer group drinking norms. Consistent with hypotheses, results demonstrate that for both alcohol use and binge drinking, the relationship between group norms and individual drinking was stronger for individuals with higher rather than lower group belonging. Study 2 is a longitudinal study, with 72 undergraduate student participants (Mage = 19.40 years; 69% female), recruited in their natural drinking groups (N = 25 groups). Group drinking norms were calculated as the average drinking behaviour of participants’ group members. Again, consistent with hypotheses, results demonstrated that the relationship between group norms and individual alcohol consumption was significant only for individuals with higher group belonging. This finding was not replicated for binge drinking, however. Implications of these findings are discussed, including their importance for informing intervention strategies.