Distinct Classes of Negative Alcohol-Related Consequences in a National Sample of Incoming First-Year College Students: A Latent Class Analysis

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Abstract

First-year college students are at particular risk for experiencing negative alcohol-related consequences that may set the stage for experiencing such consequences in later life. Latent class analysis is a person-centered approach that, based on observable indicator variables, divides a population into mutually exclusive and exhaustive groups (‘classes’). To date, no studies have examined the latent class structure of negative alcohol-related consequences experienced by first-year college students just before entering college.

Aims

The aims of this study were to (a) identify classes of first-year college students based on the patterns of negative alcohol-related consequences they experienced just before entering college, and (b) determine whether specific covariates were associated with class membership.

Methods

Incoming freshmen from 148 colleges and universities (N = 54,435) completed a baseline questionnaire as part of an alcohol education program they completed just prior to their first year of college. Participants answered questions regarding demographics and other personal characteristics, their alcohol use in the past 2 weeks, and the negative alcohol-related consequences they had experienced during that time.

Results

Four distinct classes of students emerged: (a) No Problems, (b) Academic Problems, (c) Injured Self and (d) Severe Problems. Average number of drinks per drinking day, total number of drinking days, age of drinking initiation, intention to join a fraternity or sorority and family history of alcohol problems were associated with membership in all of the problem classes relative to the No Problems class.

Conclusions

These results can inform future campus-based prevention efforts.

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