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When environments collide : the role of social identity and drinking among working students


The normative environment, often represented by college peer and friend interactions, is a strong and consistent predictor of problem drinking in college. However, many students work in addition to attending college and the influence of this other peer group is not well studied. This study sought to address this gap using two objectives : 1) to test social identity as a moderator between descriptive drinking norms and problem drinking among students that work, and 2) to test the relationship between working in the hospitality industry among college students that work and drinking, and to examine factors that might mediate that relationship. The study was implemented via a cross-sectional web-survey conducted in the Fall of 2009 (n=760). Of the 760 students, 330 students were employed and included in the study. Using structural equation modeling (SEM), a test for the moderating effect of social identity was non-significant (CMIN=2.26 [64], CFI=.97, RMSEA= .05). A post hoc analysis splitting the model into two groups (hospitality vs. non- hospitality) showed a significant moderating effect of social identity among non-hospitality workers, (b=.14, p< .05, CMIN=1.17 [128], CFI=.94 RMSEA=.05). For the second objective, working in hospitality was significantly associated with problem drinking (b =.23, p<.001, CMIN=1.72 [17], CFI=.99, RMSEA=.05) and the descriptive drinking norm was a partial mediator (indirect effect = .078, p<.001). This study showed that coworker-drinking norms influence student drinking and that social identity may be an important moderator between norms and behavior. Also, norms seem to account for some of the effect of working in hospitality on drinking. This study establishes coworkers as an important peer group for college student interventions and that working in hospitality should be viewed as a risk group for drinking among college populations. Future studies should further examine both what are the factors that predict students working in hospitality and how those factors moderate the work environment's effect on drinking as well as the factors that mediate the association between hospitality and drinking

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