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A Developmental Study of Heavy Episodic Drinking Among College Students: The Role of Psychosocial and Behavioral Protective and Risk Factors

Richard Jessor, Frances M. Costa, Patrick M. Krueger, Mark S. Turbin

Objective: A theory-based protection/risk model was applied to explain variation in college studentsí heavy episodic drinking. Key aims were (1) to establish that psychosocial and behavioral protective factors and risk factors can account for cross-sectional and developmental variation in heavy episodic drinking, and (2) to examine whether protection moderates the impact of risk on heavy episodic drinking. Method: Random- and fixed-effects maximum likelihood regression analyses were used to examine data from a three-wave longitudinal study. Data were collected in fall of 2002, spring of 2003, and spring of 2004 from college students (N = 975; 548 men) who were first-semester freshmen at Wave 1. Results: Psychosocial and behavioral protective and risk factors accounted for substantial variation in college-student heavy episodic drinking, and protection moderated the impact of risk. Findings held for both genders and were consistent across the three separate waves of data. Key predictors of heavy episodic drinking were social and individual controls protection (e.g., parental sanctions for transgression and attitudinal intolerance of deviance, respectively); models risk (peer models for substance use); behavioral protection (attendance at religious services); and behavioral risk (cigarette smoking and marijuana use). Changes in controls protection, models risk, and opportunity risk were associated with change in heavy episodic drinking. Conclusions: An explanatory model based on both psychosocial and behavioral protective and risk factors was effective in accounting for variation in college-student heavy episodic drinking. A useful heuristic was demonstrated through the articulation of models, controls, support, opportunity, and vulnerability to characterize the social context, and of controls, vulnerability, and other behaviors to characterize individuals. (J. Stud. Alcohol 67: 86-94, 2006)