Social Norms of Alcohol Use Among American Indian/Alaska Native College Students

Susanna V. Lopez, Thad R. Leffingwell, Ashley B. Cole

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objective: Research on misperceived descriptive and injunctive drinking norms, or normative perceptions of frequency, quantity, and acceptability of drinking, has rarely been extended to American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) college student populations. Ethnic identity, or strength of one’s ties to their AI/AN culture, has been hypothesized as a protective factor against problematic alcohol use. As a step toward informing culturally appropriate and gender-specific norms-based interventions for AI/AN students, this study examined differences between perceived and actual descriptive and injunctive drinking norm reference groups (e.g., AI/AN males/females, “typical” males/females), and investigated ethnic identity as a moderator between perceived and actual drinking norms. Method: AI/AN college students (N = 356) completed an online survey assessing drinking patterns, descriptive norms, injunctive norms, and ethnic identity. Results: Compared to actual drinking levels, participants overestimated all gender-specific descriptive norm groups and all gender-specific injunctive norm groups except for AI/AN males. Participants estimated lower drinking levels for AI/AN-specific groups than non-AI/AN groups. Descriptive AI/AN male and best male friend norms significantly predicted drinking for men while only best female friend norms predicted drinking for women. Injunctive typical male norms significantly predicted drinking for men, and no injunctive norms predicted drinking for women. Finally, ethnic identity was unrelated to drinking and did not significantly moderate the relation between perceived and actual drinking. Conclusions: Current findings may inform norms-based alcohol use interventions, as AI/AN-specific reference groups may have a significant impact on drinking among men, but not women.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)849-860
Number of pages12
JournalPsychology of Addictive Behaviors
Issue number7
StatePublished - 16 May 2022


  • Alcohol use
  • American indian
  • College students
  • Social norms


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