Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Richard Milich


The current study sought to better understand how alcohol use patterns develop over the transition to young adulthood by taking a bioecological approach in examining the joint influence of contextual and individual factors on drinking behaviors. Using a longitudinal design to include many factors that likely play key roles in this highly sensitive developmental period (e.g., peer norms, social activities, personality traits, access and exposure to substances), both mean levels of these variables and their change over time were considered in relation to alcohol use trajectories (AUTs). Participants were 525 students ages 18 to 25 recruited from the introductory psychology subject pool, who completed a larger battery of self-report measures and a structured interview assessing substance use annually for three years. Using Derefinko et al.’s (in press) group-based AUTs developed from the substance use interviews, individual differences and contextual factors were used to describe each AUT group and to determine what combination of factors predisposes one to membership in particular AUT groups using multinomial logistic regression analyses. Results indicated that, separately, each contextual and individual difference factor impacted the probability of drinking in some significant fashion; however, when examined together from a bioecological approach and with potential moderators, only a few key associations remained. Findings indicated that sensation seeking, enhancement motives, peer drinking, peer binge drinking, and access to a fake ID were significantly associated with shifting out of the Nil-to-Low AUT group. Evidence for significant moderating effects was also found for sensation seeking and peer drinking, sensation seeking and perceived peer approval of drinking, and lack of premeditation and peer binge drinking. Implications for prevention and intervention efforts for adolescents and young adults are discussed.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)