Descriptive drinking norms in Native American and non-Hispanic White college students

Kylee J. Hagler, Matthew R. Pearson, Kamilla L. Venner, Brenna L. Greenfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Objective College students tend to overestimate how much their peers drink, which is associated with higher personal alcohol use. However, research has not yet examined if this phenomenon holds true among Native American (NA) college students. This study examined associations between descriptive norms and alcohol use/consequences in a sample of NA and non-Hispanic White (NHW) college students. Method NA (n=147, 78.6% female) and NHW (n=246, 67.8% female) undergraduates completed an online survey. Results NAs NHWs showed similar descriptive norms such that the “typical college student,” “typical NA student,” and “typical NHW student” were perceived to drink more than “best friends.” “Best friends” descriptive norms (i.e., estimations of how many drinks per week were consumed by participants’ best friends) were the most robust predictors of alcohol use/consequences. Effect size estimates of the associations between drinking norms and participants’ alcohol use were consistently positive and ranged from r=0.25 to r=0.51 across the four reference groups. Negative binomial hurdle models revealed that all descriptive norms tended to predict drinking, and “best friends” drinking norms predicted alcohol consequences. Apart from one interaction effect, likely due to familywise error rate, these associations were not qualified by interactions with racial/ethnic group. Conclusions We found similar patterns between NAs and NHWs both in the pattern of descriptive norms across reference groups and in the strength of associations between descriptive norms and alcohol use/consequences. Although these results suggest that descriptive norms operate similarly among NAs as other college students, additional research is needed to identify whether other norms (e.g., injunctive norms) operate similarly across NA and NHW students.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)45-50
Number of pages6
JournalAddictive Behaviors
StatePublished - Sep 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Ms. Hagler is supported by NIAAA grant T32-AA018108. NIAAA had no role in the study design, collection, analysis, or interpretation of the data, writing the manuscript, or the decision to submit the paper for publication.


  • Alcohol consequences
  • Alcohol use
  • College students
  • Descriptive norms
  • Native American
  • Non-Hispanic White

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