Author ORCID Identifier
Year of Publication
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Arts and Sciences
Dr. Gregory T. Smith
Most research suggests that alcohol use peaks in the college years then declines into the mid-thirties (Jochman & Fromme, 2010). However, there is evidence that some individuals mature out earlier: downward trends for some individuals begin in college, with as many as one third of students decreasing their drinking (Baer et al., 2001). It is crucial to identify factors that differentiate those who decrease their drinking early from those who persist in high levels of consumption; doing so would clarify risk for college-related alcohol problems and perhaps subsequent alcohol use disorder, and aid in earlier targeted prevention and intervention. This study emphasizes two possibilities: 1) perhaps those who mature out early have adult-like responsibilities such as paying for their educations (i.e. financial burden) and/or 2) perhaps those who persist have higher levels of personality (i.e. urgency or sensation seeking) and learning-based (i.e. alcohol expectancies) risk factors. A sample of 591 college students were assessed four times across two years. Five trajectories of drinking frequency were identified. Three displayed stable drinking patterns across the two year period at low/infrequent, moderate and high levels. A fourth group displayed an increase at wave 4, and a fifth group decreased their drinking at wave 4. The latter two groups could be differentiated by sensation seeking and positive social expectancies, but not urgency or financial burden, before their patterns diverged. These results emphasize heterogeneity in alcohol use development across emerging adulthood, as well as the integration of contextual and individual difference risk factors.
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
This study was supported by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism grants F31 AA027960 from 2020 to 2021 and T32 AA027488 in 2020, and the Lipman Foundation grant 20-111 from 2019 to 2021.
Peterson, Sarah J., "Early Maturing Out of Problematic Alcohol Use" (2022). Theses and Dissertations--Psychology. 206.