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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Naturally Occurring Changes in Women's Drinking From High School to College and Implications for Sexual Victimization

The current study examined the natural trajectories of alcohol use among women as they transitioned from high school to college, considering changes in drinking for students at initially different levels of drinking. We examined the hypothesis that the association between college drinking and sexual victimization would be stronger for women with less high school drinking experience.

Female, college-bound, high school seniors were recruited from the community at the time of graduation (N = 437). Alcohol consumption and sexual victimization were assessed at the time of high school graduation (Time 0 [T0]) and at the end of the first (T1) and second (T2) semesters of college.

Abstainers and light drinkers increased alcohol consumption from T0 to T1; however, consumption by those already engaging in heavy episodic drinking remained stable. Consumption did not increase for any group from T1 to T2. As expected, maximum consumption in college was strongly associated with experiencing incapacitated rape or other sexual victimization during the same semester; however, prior drinking experience did not moderate the relationship.

Occasions of heavy drinking in college are a significant risk factor for sexual victimization for both experienced and inexperienced drinkers. Findings point toward universal prevention, ideally before college entry, as a strategy for reducing heavy episodic drinking and hence, college sexual victimization.

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