Parenting and College Student Alcohol Use: A Person-Centered Approach

Open Access
Author:
Abar, Caitlin C
Graduate Program:
Human Development and Family Studies
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
May 21, 2010
Committee Members:
  • Jennifer Lianne Maggs, Dissertation Advisor
  • Jennifer Lianne Maggs, Committee Chair
  • Robert James Turrisi, Committee Chair
  • Doug Coatsworth, Committee Member
  • Edward A Smith, Committee Member
Keywords:
  • parenting influences
  • college
  • alcohol use
Abstract:
Alcohol is the most commonly used drug among American adolescents, resulting in approximately 1700 accidental deaths of 18-24 year old college students and 600,000 unintentional student injuries annually. As such, a great deal of research has examined ways to prevent or limit underage alcohol use and associated negative consequences. An emerging body of literature has shown parenting characteristics to be predictive of decreased alcohol use across the transition to college. The present study sought to expand upon this research through the use of a holistic, person-centered approach in order to accomplish three distinct research aims: (1) identify groups of college students with unique profiles of perceived parenting characteristics and compare these profiles on college alcohol use and experienced negative consequences; (2) identify groups of college students with unique profiles of alcohol-related correlates and compare these profiles on college alcohol use and experienced negative consequences; and (3) examine the extent to which profiles of perceived parenting characteristics are associated with profiles of college alcohol-related risk. A sample of 1,153 first-year university students between 17 and 23 years-of-age were assessed on a host of perceived parenting and personal alcohol-related items. Four profiles of perceived parenting characteristics were found using latent profile analysis (LPA): (1) High Quality; Average Modeling and Approval, (2) Low Approval; Average Modeling and Quality, (3) Low Modeling, Approval, and Quality, and (4) High Modeling and Approval; Low Quality. Follow-up analyses revealed that individuals in the High Modeling and Approval; Low Quality profile were inclined to experience significantly higher levels of alcohol use and associated negative consequences later in college, whereas individuals in the High Quality; Average Modeling and Approval profile appeared to be associated with the least risky alcohol-related outcomes across profiles. Five profiles of student alcohol-related characteristics were also found using LPA: (1) Abstainers, (2) Past Drinkers, (3) Light Drinkers, (4) Moderate Drinkers, and (5) High Risk Drinkers. Latent transition analysis illustrated that students who perceived their parents as High Modeling and Approval; Low Quality had much higher probabilities of belonging in the Moderate Drinker or High Risk Drinker profiles than students in all other perceived parenting profiles. Several findings have important implications relevant for researchers, interested parents, and prevention scientists. For example, results indicated that modeling parenting across the transition to college as a categorical latent variable may be an appropriate alternative to modeling it as a collection of continuous latent characteristics. Parents may benefit from the finding that, in addition to alcohol-specific parenting characteristics, parent-teen relationship quality may also be integral in the prevention of college alcohol misuse. Finally, parents and teens in this study evidenced important complexity in observed patterns of parenting and alcohol behaviors, such that profiles could be interpreted as qualitatively distinct types of individuals. These unique profiles suggest that a targeted approach reflecting the profiles found in the current study might greatly enhance prevention program efficacy.