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The Ties That Bind: Bonding Versus Bridging Social Capital and College Student Party Attendance
Cynthia K. Buettner, Jeffrey S. Debies-Carl
Objective: This study explored the relationship between bonding and bridging social capital and college student attendance at alcohol-present parties, a common method for building informal social networks. Method: A random sample of students (n = 6,291; 52% female) from a large public midwestern university completed a survey regarding their alcohol use and party-related behaviors on targeted weekends. The survey also included questions regarding students' living arrangements, romantic relationships, and membership in student and community organizations. Results: Based on a dichotomous logistic regression analysis, we concluded that the act of attending parties largely serves as a complement to, rather than a substitute for, more conventional and formal social capital. Membership in bonding groups is associated with increased odds of party attendance, and bridging exerts no direct effect on party attendance. However, bridging capital does mitigate the effect of bonding capital, reducing its apparent tendency to promote or contribute to partying. Conclusions: Off-campus parties may offer an informal supplement to more conventional social capital as students establish themselves in their new context. These findings may have implications for structural decisions (e.g., number of roommates) as well as the design of context-based prevention programs that address students' need to quickly build social capital without exposing both themselves and the students around them to the harms associated with high-risk drinking. (J. Stud. Alcohol Drugs, 73, 604–612, 2012)