College Binge Drinking Essay, Research Paper
Most young adults enter college seeking a higher education in preparation for a career and vocation yet to be determined. This is a time when students go through cognitive, psychosocial, and biosocial development, as they become more mature adults. This is also a
time when young people begin to form more intimate relationships with members of the opposite sex. Generally, college students are looking to replace the social network of friends that were established during high school and adolescence. Mostly, students are seeking companionship and support in new relationships. It is often the case that within these new relationships, coupled with a new and foreign college environment, students are confronted with challenges and
anxiety the likes of which they have never before experienced.
As we have studied in self-awareness theory, people cope with a negative outlook, which affects their self-perception utilizing two methods. Either they create behavior in order to reduce negative self-perception or they will try to escape self-awareness. Alcohol abuse serves as one of the many common methods employed by students to escape reality, negative feelings and perception of self.
Why are young adults more vulnerable to this type of escape mechanism than older candidates? Perhaps the reason lies within the complex social structure of young adulthood. Many young people do not have a strong understanding of their social selves, and, therefore are more likely to become frustrated and resort to the socially acceptable ritual of drinking.
Alcohol can play a significant role in helping to break down initial
social barriers. It can also assist in the escape procedure by reducing anxiety and lowering self-inhibition. Additionally, alcohol can serve as a method of bringing people together and initiating social contact and
interaction. The end result is that young people would appear to be able to build easier social contacts with a wider range of numbers. The difficulty is that when young people follow up on these initial and perhaps superficial interactions while not under the influence of alcohol, there would most likely be no depth or strength to the relationships. Frequently students will not even remember a discussion, a fight, or sexual encounter the following day. As we have discussed in class, alcohol myopia can cause young people to react or respond to initial information in a social environment, but miss the later more subtle and potentially deeper signals in relationship building. Without significant relationships, young people are left with false dependence on the repeated use or abuse of alcohol as a method of easy socializing and trying to justify and cope with their emotional abyss.
Another reason for alcohol use in college is the need for attention. Attention seeking behavior while one is inebriated often manifests itself in the performance of ridiculous stunts and behavior. College students who drink, and particularly those who drink heavily, choose to have fun. But, waking up to a pounding headache or nausea is not that much fun. Neither is it fun when stunts or attention seeking behavior result in harm to one’s self or another person.
It appears that the very basis of alcohol use and abuse is directly
affected by the degree of strength of self-esteem, particularly in a college setting. If a young person does not have a strong
self-image, he or she is less likely to be confident in approaching others. Alcohol becomes then, a real alternative in helping to overcome social fear and ease anxiety. Alcohol can also become an
excuse for lack of social success, which is based upon self-handicapping. This theory was presented to us in class. A guy can protect his ego when a girl turns him down by blaming the incident on his alcohol-induced state.
As we have studied in the Low Self-Esteem Cycle, one who begins with low self-esteem has negative expectations at the outset. The result is high anxiety and low effort, which together produce failure. Alcohol consumption helps to ease the high anxiety, but the cycle of low self-esteem and self-blame remains.
The relationship between binge drinking and self-esteem levels of college students is researched in Self-Esteem and Alcohol Consumption: A Study of College Drinking Behavior in a Naturalistic Setting. The authors of this research based their findings on several theories, which related self-esteem to alcohol consumption. These theories are basically the same as those that were referenced earlier from our class readings. Specifically, those who have low self-esteem and are seeking support and acceptance from friends will be susceptible to binge drinking. Stress, anxiety, and often-negative states can be reduced temporarily through drinking. Alcohol consumption also supports the rationalization of below par performance. Another theory agreed upon Glindeman, Geller, and Fortney was the idea that students with low self-esteem will resort
to binge drinking in order to avoid addressing issues of personal importance or relevance.
The research is based upon a self-esteem test and a blood alcohol
measurement. The participants in the test were from the same sorority and fraternity. The young adults who consisted of fifteen women and twenty-nine men took the self-esteem test about two weeks prior
to a fraternity party. A response scale similar to a five-point scale rated twelve key points related to self-esteem. After the fraternity party, members of the research team conducted alcohol tests
using two breathalyzers on the test participants. To analyze the data, the researchers split the students into two groups: those with high and those with low self-esteem. If one scored higher than the average test result of 3.83, then he or she was considered to have high self-esteem. The opposite was true with the students, who were labeled as having low self-esteem. The results of the research showed that those students with low self-esteem had higher blood/alcohol levels whether they are men or women. These results supported the theories presented by the researchers.
The focus of Moderation in Excess: Binge Drinking and Social Interaction among College Students is based on how much students binge drink and the amount and type of social engagements that they are involved in. Although these researchers put no set theories forth, the main idea is that the consumption of alcohol is an average pattern of acceptable behavior of socially active college students. The researchers quantified social interactions using the Rochester Interaction Record. This is a diary maintained by the participating students. The diary consisted of six different areas. These areas were influence, enjoyment, others responsiveness, depth of self-disclosure, breadth of self-disclosure, and intimacy. Each of these areas was rated on a scale of 1-9, one being the least and nine being the most active in its particular category. Students were also told to distinguish among same sex, opposite sex, and group interactions. All social interactions had to be at least ten minutes in length in order to qualify as significant statistical information for recording in the journals. The researchers recorded the number of binge drinking occurrences and the gross amount of alcohol consumed.
The results did not produce enough concrete information to give an
adequate generalization across the whole spectrum of the tests. However, there were a few instances where a correlation could be drawn. First, men who were frequent binge drinkers did have very low scores on intimacy. These candidates also experienced negative social response from others. Also, men and women who binge drank less frequently experienced more positive social interactions during the course of a day. Although the results depended upon many variables, it was fairly easy to see that those who binge drank once in a while were more likely to have multiple positive social interactions than any other group. The third group tested, those who did not binge drink at all, also experienced less positive social interaction, as they appeared to be on the fringes of events and relationships.
A direct correspondence between ones self-esteem and social interactions is indicated. Without self-esteem, young adults are in a weaker position to develop meaningful and lasting relationships. Alcohol can facilitate those with weaker senses of self in order to help them bond with others on a temporary basis only. Clearly self-esteem and associated levels of social relationships among young adult college students can be linked directly to the extent of alcohol use and the amount and frequency of binge drinking.
Unfortunately, all of the results of these tests merely tell the
observer what he or she already knows. Young people have historically and will continue to experience a lack of self-esteem given the new relationship-building challenges of their new environment and their newfound freedom from parental controls. They will most likely continue to turn to alcohol for their escape and reinforcement of positive social needs. Creating social contacts with no alcohol to help
facilitate the acceptability of such events is one way of introducing young people to a drug-free social situation. This should be done without the official sanction of the college because the students would only want to separate themselves from any institutionalized program.
Bilbro, K.G., Nezlek, J.B., & Pilkington, C.J. (1994). Moderation in excess: Binge drinking and social interaction among college students. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 55 (3), 342-351.
Fortney, J.N., Geller, E.S., & Glindemann, K.E. (1994). Self-esteem and alcohol consumption: A study of college drinking behavior in a naturalistic setting. Journal of Alcohol and Drug Education, 45 (1), 60-71.