Change in College Students' Perceived Parental Permissibility of Alcohol Use and Its Relation to College Drinking Outcomes

Open Access
Author:
Calhoun, Brian Hardin
Graduate Program:
Human Development and Family Studies
Degree:
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
February 17, 2016
Committee Members:
  • Jennifer Lianne Maggs, Thesis Advisor
  • Eric Loken, Thesis Advisor
Keywords:
  • college drinking
  • alcohol use
  • perceived parental permissibility of alcohol use
  • transition to adulthood
Abstract:
Perceived parental permissibility of alcohol use has been consistently linked with college drinking outcomes. That is, students who report that their parents deem it appropriate for them consume more drinks on a given night report consuming a greater number of drinks, engaging in binge drinking more frequently, and experiencing a greater number of negative consequences of alcohol use. However, few studies have assessed permissibility as an outcome, measured permissibility on more than one occasion, or focused on the later college years. Data from 687 college students in a large university in the Northeast United States were used to assess whether perceived parental permissibility of alcohol use changed across college and whether permissibility predicted binge drinking frequency, peak drinking, and negative consequences of alcohol use. Results showed permissibility increased across college, and that the rate of change was faster for males than females. Generalized linear mixed models showed that between-person differences in mean permissibility were linked with all three drinking outcomes across college, such that individuals who reported higher mean permissibility also reported more frequent binge drinking occasions, higher levels of peak drinking, and more negative consequences of alcohol use. However, within-person differences in permissibility across years of college were only associated with peak drinking, such that in years when students reported higher permissibility they also reported higher peak drinking levels. The greater prevalence of between-person findings suggested the need for an approach focused on different profiles or groups of permissibility change across college. Four clusters of differential patterns of permissibility change were then identified using k-means cluster analysis: a low permissibility cluster, whose permissibility was consistently low; an age 21 permissibility cluster, whose permissibility rose sharply upon nearing the minimum legal drinking age of 21 years of age, a college permissibility cluster, whose permissibility rose sharply upon matriculating to college, and a high permissibility cluster, whose permissibility was consistently high. Membership in these clusters predicted binge drinking frequency and peak drinking, such that students in the low permissibility cluster reported fewer binge drinking occasions and fewer drinks consumed on their heaviest drinking occasions in comparison to each of the other three clusters. The results suggest that aspects of the parent-child relationship are linked with the risk behaviors their late adolescent children engage in during college. Intervention implications include the potential value of continuing intervention programs past the first year of college as both drinking behaviors and perceived parental permissibility of alcohol use increased across the first four years of college.