Berkowitz, Alan D.,
and H. Wesley
Research examining collegiate problem drinking from 1975-1985 is reviewed. Eight topics are distinguished pertaining to the definition and correlates of problem drinking: consumption patterns; self-identification as a problem drinker; motivations; negative consequences; personality characteristics; family, peers, and environment; long-term consequences of problem alcohol use; and male-female differences in problem drinking. Reported prevalences of problem drinking range from a low of 6% to a high of 72%, with most studies suggesting that approximately 20-25% of students have drinking problems. The variability may be explained in large part by divergent conceptual and operational definitions of problem drinkers across studies. Problem drinkers are characterized relative to nonproblem drinkers as impulsive, prone to deviant behavior, less oriented towards academic success, more independence-seeking, and more likely to drink for escapist (rather than sociability) reasons. The influential role of college peers in the development of alcohol abuse patterns is significant and increases, relative to family influences, with age. Collegiate problem drinking is associated with difficulties with friends and teachers and in meeting responsibilities, although it has not been established as a cause of alcoholism or later-life drinking problems. While the incidence of problem drinking is higher among men, overall motivational, personality, and environmental influences appear similar for problem drinkers of both sexes. Differences between male and female problem drinkers tend to reflect gender-related patterns of drinking found in society at large. Implications of the literature for the design and implementation of college alcohol education programs are discussed.