Date of Publication


Degree Type

Honors Thesis


Public Health and Health Education

First Advisor

Dr. Joshua Fegley, Assistant Professor, Public Health and Health Education


The purpose of the study is to examine the relationships between alcohol use, self-esteem, and drinking motives among first and second-year college students. Relevant research has been conducted on these variables separately. This study aims to fill a research gap by examining the dynamic relationships and interactions between these variables. This study is focused exclusively on first and second-year students, as these populations are of a higher risk of alcohol use and its related consequences (Borsari, Murphy, & Barnett, 2007).

Methods: This study was approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) of a mid-sized public liberal arts institution in the Northeastern United States. Data were collected through electronic surveys administered through a campus-based survey platform. Data were analyzed using Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) version 24. The survey was anonymous and all data were maintained electronically and only accessible by the researchers.

Discussion: The current study examined a gap within existing research which evaluated relationships between drinking motives, self-esteem and alcohol consumption. Significant findings are to be discussed as well as what future research and future preventative programming can do based on findings from this current study.

Limitations: The limitations of this study include a small student sample from a single university. Within this small sample, it was overrepresented of female students compared to the institution’s demographics. Given the study’s focus on alcohol consumption, and many students being underage, they could have been skeptical of a confidentiality breach, however, confidentiality was ensured. Socially desirable responding (SDR) is a known limitation where respondents have a tendency to unconsciously respond with more positive answers than what is true (Melson, Monk, Heim, 2016). This could be especially problematic when reporting about alcohol consumption, responding with lower usage values than actual usage.

Conclusion: This study examined the relationship between drinking motives, self-esteem and drinking behaviors among first and second-year college students, with significant findings among these variables. These findings can inform programming for prevention of harmful drinking behaviors and associated consequences among the priority population of those with low self-esteem and coping motives as well as enhancement and social motives. Future studies could expand on these variables to learn more, doing so through detailed studies and larger study samples.

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