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A Dangerous Transition: Women's Drinking and Related Victimization From High School to the First Year at College

Kathleen A. Parks, Ann M. Romosz, Clara M. Bradizza, Ya-Ping Hsieh

Objective: The current study assessed women's risk for victimization during the first year at college, based on changes in drinking during the transition from high school to college. We were specifically interested in differential risk for victimization based on women's change in drinking status over the transition to college. We compared continued abstainers with women who began drinking (new drinkers) and women who continued drinking but either decreased, increased, or did not change their level of weekly drinking. Method: Data were collected using a Web-based survey each fall for the first 2 years at college with one cohort (N = 886) of incoming freshmen women at a large state university in New York. Women reported on their alcohol and other drug use, psychological symptoms, number of sexual partners, and experiences with physical and sexual victimization for the year before entering college (Year 1 survey) and for the first year at college (Year 2 survey). Results: Abstainers were significantly less likely to experience physical or sexual victimization during the first year at college, compared with drinkers. Logistic regression indicated that there were differences in the predictors of physical and sexual victimization during the first year at college. These differences included history of victimization, psychological symptoms, and number of sexual partners, as well as the type of change in drinking over the transition. Conclusions: In comparison with abstainers, having a history of physical victimization, greater psychological symptoms, and being a new drinker increased the odds of physical victimization, whereas having a greater number of current psychological symptoms, sexual partners, and increasing weekly drinking increased the odds of sexual victimization during the first year at college. These findings have implications for prevention efforts targeting young women entering college. (J. Stud. Alcohol Drugs 69: 65-74, 2008)