Latent Growth Classes of Alcohol-Related Blackouts Over the First 2 Years of College

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Alcohol-related blackouts are common among college student drinkers. The present study extends prior work by examining latent growth classes of blackouts and several predictors of class membership. Participants (N = 709 college drinkers) completed a baseline survey at college entry and biweekly online assessments throughout freshman and sophomore years. Results revealed 5 latent growth class trajectories, reflecting varying experiences of blackouts at the beginning of college and differential change in blackouts over time. The largest class represented a relatively low-risk group (low decrease; 47.3%) characterized by endorsement of no or very low likelihood of blackouts, and decreasing likelihood of blackouts over time. Another decreasing risk group (high decrease; 11.1%) initially reported a high proportion of blackouts and had the steepest decrease in blackout risk over time. A small percentage showed consistently high likelihood of blackouts over time (high stable; 4.1%). The remaining 2 groups were distinguished by relatively moderate (moderate stable; 14.9%) and lower (low stable; 22.6%) likelihood of blackouts, which remained stable over time. Comparisons between classes revealed that students with greater perceived peer drinking, perceived peer approval of drinking, and enhancement motives upon entry to college tended to be in higher risk groups with consistent experiences of blackouts over time, whereas blackout likelihood decreased over time for students with greater conformity motives. Findings suggest that precollege preventive interventions may be strengthened by considering not only factors related to current risk for blackouts and other alcohol-related consequences, but also those factors related to persistence of these behaviors over time.

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