Category: Addictive Behaviors
Social Identity Theory (SIT) posits that identity, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors are influenced by the groups with which we identify (Tajfel & Turner, 1979). A well supported aspect of SIT is that the influence of group norms on behavior is related to the strength of identification with the target group (Ellemers, Spears, & Doosje, 2002). Due to our past finding that about 30% of college students who use alcohol do not identify as a drinker (Uy, et al., 2015), we wondered if SIT could explain our result. We created two measures to explore this question:1) the Drinker Identity Scale (DIS), which rates the strength of viewing drinking as central to self-identity; 2) the Drinker Construct Scale (DCS), which assesses agreement with positive and negative characteristics associated with those who drink alcohol. The DIM consists of 10 items (e.g., drinking is important to me) and had excellent internal consistency (α =.91). The DCS consists of 10 items and had adequate internal consistency (α=.74). Factor analysis of the DCS revealed two 5-item factors: a Positive Attributes factor (e.g., drinkers are more fun) and a Negative Attributes factor (e.g., drinkers are unpredictable). Drinker identity was assessed with the question “I consider myself a drinker.” We predicted the DIS and the DCS Positive Attributes Factor would show positive relations with both alcohol use and accepting the drinker label and the DCS Negative Attributes factor would show negative relations with both drinker identity and alcohol use. The sample was 362 (129 males; 75% White; age = 19.8 years) undergraduates at a mid-sized private university. The majority (75%) used alcohol. Average weekly consumption was 8.1 standard drinks. Results indicated 49.7% accepted the drinker label and 50.3% rejected the drinker label; 15% (n= 63) were true abstainers. As predicted, accepting the drinker label was positively related to the DIM (r = .70, p r = -.14, p=.006) and positively related with the DCS Positive Attributes factor (r = .40, pr = .74, p r = .47, p (r = -.07, p=.21). The sensitivity of the DIM and DCS was tested by removing abstainers. Similar results emerged. Accepting the drinker label was positively related to the DIM (r = .65, pr = .34, p r = -.20, p < .001). These findings suggest that accepting or rejecting the drinker identity is due to an internalized schema of attributes and not consumption of alcohol alone.