Transitions in drinking behaviors across the college years: A latent transition analysis

Brittney A. Hultgren, Rob Turrisi, Michael J. Cleveland, Kimberly A. Mallett, Racheal Reavy, Mary E. Larimer, Irene M. Geisner, Michelle M. Hospital

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Objective: College student alcohol use remains a considerable concern. While many colleges provide universal interventions surrounding matriculation, trends indicate alcohol use increases over the college years. This study utilized a person-centered approach to examine changes in drinking across college and predictors (expectancies, attitudes, norms, and gender) of increases in risky drinking. Understanding transitions in drinking patterns and predictors of risky transitions can help identify risky students, periods of increased risk, and inform prevention efforts. Method: 1429 first-year students were recruited from three universities across the USA. Students were assessed in the fall of each of the four years of college using a wide variety of drinking-related measures. Results: Latent transition analysis (LTA) identified five classes of students (Non-Drinkers, Weekend Light Drinkers, Weekend Heavy Drinkers, Occasional Heavy Episodic Drinkers, Heavy Drinkers). Heavy-Drinkers were not likely to move out of their status during all four years of college. All psychosocial factors were shown to predict class membership during the first year (e.g., higher positive expectancies were associated with greater likelihood of being in a higher risk class). Increased psychosocial risk factors also predicted transitioning to higher risk drinking classes, mostly for Non-Drinkers. Differences by gender were observed. Conclusions: Results indicate many students maintain or increase risky drinking practices, rather than mature out, suggesting continued need for early prevention. Targeting positive attitudes during the first year may be particularly important for later transitions. Males may benefit more from targeted intervention during the transition between third and fourth years.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)108-114
Number of pages7
JournalAddictive Behaviors
StatePublished - May 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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