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ONU researchers publish alcohol study

Dr.Durkin with groupDr. Keith F. Durkin, associate professor of sociology and chair of the department of sociology and psychology and four current and former ONU students are coauthors of a recently-published paper titled, “The Comparative Impacts of Risk and Protective Factors on Alcohol-Related Problems in a Sample of University Students.” The publication examines the positive and negative influences associated with of alcohol use among college students.

According to Durkin, “Protective factors are those that reduce the likelihood of engaging in problematic conduct, while risk factors increase the likelihood of an individual engaging in problematic behavior.”

Durkin’s co-authors are 2009 psychology and sociology graduates Amber Blackston, Shalagh Frantz and Trevor Eagle, plus Sabrina Dowd, a senior psychology major from Mount Juliet, Tenn.

They report that protective factors against alcohol abuse include religious commitment, commitment to higher education and the quality of parent-child relations. Risk factors include peer groups that enjoy drinking and a person’s attitudes toward drinking. They report that individual students are more likely to drink if they associate with students who binge drink.

Durkin said, “What I found particularly interesting from the results is that risk factors are twice as important as protective factors in explaining the alcohol-related problems of students.”

The alcohol behavior survey took a sample of 1,459 students from four colleges and universities from around the United States. The students who assisted Dr. Durkin analyzed the results of the survey to explore the impact of both protective and risk factors on alcohol related behaviors and outcomes.

Eagle said, “Being part of a research team and learning firsthand the many steps involved to publish research is something very special for an undergraduate to experience.”

The research team also presented their findings at the annual meeting of the Mid-South Sociological Association in Huntsville, Ala., in October 2008.

Durkin said, “This study illustrates the importance of peers and peer behavior in predicting the drinking behavior of college students. The student and his or her attitude and peer group are the most important factors in contributing to alcohol-related problems. Therefore, students who are having problems related to their alcohol consumption need to seriously evaluate who they associate with and how they perceive drinking. Chances are some of their close friends are experiencing problems due to drinking as well.”

The paper was published in the Journal of Offender Rehabilitation Volume 48, Issue 8, Nov. 2009.