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Gender Differences in Collegiate Risk Factors for Heavy Episodic Drinking
Sean Esteban McCabe
Objective: The present research examines gender differences in the way risk factors for heavy episodic drinking operate among undergraduate students. Method: A web-based survey was administered to students attending a large, midwestern research university in the spring of 1999. The sample consisted of 2,041 undergraduate students with a mean age of 21.1 years; 51% were female; 72% were white, 12% Asian, 5% African American, 4% Hispanic and 7% of other races. Heavy episodic drinking was defined as having five or more drinks in a row for men and four or more for women in the last 2 weeks. Two multiple risk factor approaches, continuous and categorical, were used to examine gender differences, with the latter focusing on three drinking patterns (nonheavy episodic drinking, heavy episodic drinking, and frequent heavy episodic drinking). Results: The data indicated gender differences and similarities among risk factors for heavy episodic drinking within four major domains of risk factors (background, motivational, social context and behavioral). There were significant differences in the way class year and living arrangements operated as risk factors between undergraduate men and women. Gender similarities existed for precollege drinking, drinking motivations and several behavioral measures. The categorical analysis revealed several risk factors unique to the most harmful drinking pattern. Conclusions: This study lends support for gender differences between individual risk factors for heavy episodic drinking among undergraduate students. These differences have important implications for planning research and interventions aimed at reducing collegiate heavy episodic drinking. (J. Stud. Alcohol 63: 49-56, 2002)