Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Charles R. Carlson


Substance use is prevalent on college campuses (e.g., Douglas et al., 1997) and can create significant negative consequences (Kodjo & Klein, 2002; NIAAA, 2006). Research suggests that religious beliefs and religious behaviors interact to predict risky substance use in first-year undergraduate students, such that students with religious beliefs but no corresponding behaviors are at risk for significant alcohol use and related problems (Brechting et al., 2010; Cole et al., 2020). However, these studies have only been cross-sectional in nature.

The current study assessed longitudinally if the interaction of religious beliefs/behaviors influenced first-year undergraduate student substance use across the early adjustment period to college. Additionally, the study explored if perceptions of parental religiosity and/or general parental support variables influenced student substance use and religiosity, given the influence of parental variables on student behaviors (e.g., Ewing et al., 2015). Undergraduate participants (N=157) at the University of Kentucky completed surveys at two time points during their first fall semester.

Results indicated that students with higher religious beliefs but lower religious behaviors were the student religious grouping most at risk for substance use (p’s< .01- .05). A direction of effect analysis indicated that substance use behaviors predicted a decline in religious behaviors over time (p’s< .01-.05). Moreover, direction of effect analyses indicated that religious behaviors of mothers negatively predicted student alcohol-related problems over time (p< .01), while fathers’ religious beliefs positively predicted student religious behaviors over time (p< .01). Future interventions should consider these outcomes for helping first-semester college students reduce their risky substance use.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

This research was supported by the Robert Lipman Research Grant from 2019-2020.