University of Notre Dame

Project Description

Academic Majors and Alcohol Consumption

Project Abstract

The problems of high risk drinking are prevalent in colleges and universities nationwide, with nearly every institution expending a great deal of time and financial resources to reworking the culture of alcohol use on their respective campuses. Despite these common efforts and the development of well-intentioned programs, the problems related to high risk drinking persist and the interventions�some of which are implemented by experience, well-respected professionals�are highly ineffective. Many of these approaches attempt to dispel common myths of alcohol usage by educating students about the actual drinking behaviors of their peers on campus. Research suggests, however, that students� immediate peer groups have the greatest immediate impact on their drinking behaviors, not norms of the larger campus community or information developed by alcohol abuse prevention programs.
Because another aspect of Notre Dame�s larger culture revolves around the variable rigors of academic student life, students� social lives must accommodate their academic schedules which vary from student to student and major to major. Accordingly, in preliminary structured interviews for this project (See Appendix 1) and in past studies conducted through the Office of Alcohol and Drug Education, relationships between certain drinking behaviors and academic programs were evident. In this project, we seek to explore how Notre Dame students� attitudes about alcohol consumption vary according to their academic majors, or chosen fields of study. We want to explore these trends by: 1) characterizing the drinking behaviors among each academic major category; 2) exploring the perceived costs and benefits of drinking by members of each academic category; and 3) investigating the social relationships among people in various academic categories and how these relationships influence drinking behaviors in different contexts. By using several qualitative approaches and following the initial assumption that variable drinking occurs between majors, this project may provide clues into the diversity of attitudes among students and reveal the complexity involved in characterizing college drinking behaviors. By dissecting the larger drinking culture of Notre Dame into smaller, defined categories based on another identity trait�academic drinking culture�it may be possible to identify and target drinkers that are at a higher risk for abusive drinking. In addition, this method may provide another route to obtaining information on social networks�via identifiable subcultures�and how they influence the alcohol consumption patterns of their members.

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