Who Will Experience the Most Alcohol Problems in College? The Roles of Middle and High School Drinking Tendencies
BackgroundPrevious work examining college drinking tendencies has identified a disproportionately small (20%), but uniquely high-risk group of students who experience nearly 50% of the reported alcohol-related consequences (i.e., the multiple repeated consequences, or MRC, group). With the goal of reducing drinking-related consequences later in college, this study sought to identify potential MRC group members in their first semester by examining: (i) early-risk subgroups based on analysis of early-risk screening constructs (e.g., age of drinking onset, middle school alcohol exposure, high school drinking, and consequences); and (ii) their association with MRC criteria early in the first semester of college. MethodsA random sample of 2,021 first-year college student drinkers (56% female) completed a web-based drinking survey in their first semester on campus. ResultsLatent class analysis revealed 4 early-risk subgroups: (i) an early-onset risk group who endorsed early age of drinking onset and engaged in heavy middle and high school drinking (10%); (ii) a late-onset risk group who engaged in weekend drinking and drunkenness and experienced 6 or more unique consequences as seniors in high school (32%); (iii) an early-onset limited risk group who only endorsed early age of onset and middle school drinking (3%); and (iv) a minimal risk group who did not engage in any early-risk behaviors (55%). Members of both the early- and late-onset risk groups had significantly higher odds of MRC membership in their first semester of college (9.85 and 6.79 greater, respectively). ConclusionsResults suggest age of onset, middle and high school drinking and drunkenness, and frequency of unique consequences could be particularly useful in brief screening tools. Further, findings support early screening and prevention efforts for MRC membership prior to college matriculation.