Alcohol Consumption among Underage College Students

A study conducted to find out why underage college students drink in excess despite reported negative consequences found out a number of motivations behind this behavior. One of the reasons given by the students was the influence of the peers. The students who took part in the study reported high drinking rate of their friends and the influence it had on their drinking habits. From this study, it was found out that drinking habit was encouraged by friends who were also involved in the same behavior. The study also found out that male students thought that it was normal to keep up with the drinking habits of their peers. Most of them also engaged in drinking with friends as a form of competition to see who would take the most beer. However, on the part of female students, peers played a different role to encourage the drinking behavior (Dodd, Glassman et. al, 2010). According to the findings of the study, female students used their peers to watch them in case they lost control after excessive drinking. Keeping up with the drinking habits of their friends was also not important to female students. The two groups however, agreed that peers played a major role in influencing their drinking behavior.

Another reinforcing attribute of Alcohol consumption is that it enabled young students to gather enough confidence to approach strangers. It also facilitated sexual opportunities for these students due to the confidence that they gain after consumption of alcohol. This reason was cited by both male and female students. The male respondents reported that high risk drinking increased their chances of hooking up although they agreed that excessive drinking could lead to unacceptable and embarrassing behavior. Thus, to male consumers, alcohol consumption has both rewards and punishment, rewards being increased sexual opportunities and punishment coming in embarrassing situations in case of excessive consumption of alcohol. Despite this, the female respondents did not express any concern on the amount of alcohol consumption. What mattered to them was the level of confidence they gained to approach members of the opposite sex after alcohol consumption. The more the alcohol consumption by the female respondents, the more the courage they gained. Thus, the reward reaped by females from consuming alcohol reinforces their behavior. There was also consensus among participants that it was important for both parties to be drunk in order to hook up for sexual activities (Dodd, Glassman et. al, 2010).

To many college students, college lifestyle provides an opportunity to prove their attained autonomy from parental control. In an attempt to confirm and reinforce this notion, Dodd et al. asserts that students consume alcohol as it serves as a strong way of individuals’ ability to make personal choices over their lives. This perception of alcohol as a sign of independence, autonomy and confirmation of “maturity” provides the colleges students with a positive reward that satisfies a specific stimulus thus reinforcing the alcoholism behavior. As evidenced by the research from the article, most students believed that alcohol was one way they could demonstrate their sense of freedom from parental control. Most of them argued that they had received instructions for about 18 years and so it was now their time to do whatever they thought was right including drinking (Dodd, Glassman et. al, 2010). Another reason that underage students gave for drinking habit was to gain courage to interact with other people in the society. Therefore, they saw alcohol consumption as a social lubricant. As a result of this, students drunk in order to feel at ease in social situations.

In conclusion, it is evident that despite its negative effects, alcohol consumption among the youths in college can be explained using the principles of behavior reinforcement. The principle suggests three consequences that can reinforce, decrease or extinguish a given behavior. Therefore, if a given consequence leads to rewards it encourages the associated behavior. If the consequence leads to punishments, it decreases the behavior, while if the consequence leads to neither rewards nor punishments, it extinguishes the associated behavior. Alcohol consumption behavior is encouraged by the reward students get if form of social acceptance, hook up and the courage to interact with strangers. This reinforces alcohol consumption behavior among students.


Dodd, V., Glassman, T., Arthur, A., Webb, M., & Miller, M. (2010). Why Underage college students drink in excess: Qualitative research findings. American Journal of Health Education, 41(2), 93-101.

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