The relationship between social identity, normative information, and college student drinking

Mark B. Reed, James E. Lange, Julie M. Ketchie, John D. Clapp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


The role of peer influence has long been recognized as important in the drinking decisions and behaviors of young people. Specifying the mechanisms behind these relationships, however, remains relatively underdeveloped. In this study we examine the moderating influence of group identity on the relationship between injunctive norms and drinking behavior. A total of 620 male and female undergraduate students completed an Internet questionnaire comprised of social identity, injunctive norms (perceptions of others' approval of their heavy drinking), and alcohol consumption measures (drinks per occasion). Three separate hierarchical regression models were run examining the relationship between social identity, injunctive norms, and alcohol consumption for three reference groups: friends, peers, and fraternity/ sorority members, controlling for participant gender and race/ethnicity. Stronger identification with a reference group was associated with heavier drinking for all three models. Participants' perceptions of their friends' acceptability of their heavy drinking was positively associated with alcohol consumption; however, the injunctive norms term was not significant for the models examining peers or fraternity/ sorority member reference groups. In each model, significant two-way interaction terms representing the cross-product of the social identity and injunctive norms indices indicated that among respondents who identified strongly with a reference group, perceptions of heavy drinking acceptability were positively associated with greater alcohol consumption. These results have implications for norms-focused interventions that fail to account for varying identification with different social groups.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-294
Number of pages26
JournalSocial Influence
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2007


  • Alcohol consumption
  • College students
  • Social identity
  • Social norms


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