A Dutch researcher has found that men, extroverts and individuals with positive expectations regarding alcohol use drink more than others.
The amount a young person drinks is largely determined by how much others in the group drink. Friendly young people are especially sensitive to the influence of others on their alcohol use.
According to the author, besides genetic disposition, drinking behavior is affected by culture, upbringing and the immediate social environment. Among young people alcohol use is a form of social behavior. They drink in groups: in private bars, at parties, in clubhouses or at discos.
Social alcohol use is strongly dependent on the behavior and influence of others. This applies to men in particular. Among young people, alcohol addiction is not yet an issue but excessive alcohol use is directly related to aggression, vandalism and traffic accidents.
Dutch psychologist Sander Bot observed the drinking behavior in groups of young adults and combined this with questionnaire data concerning the individual group members. His research was supervised by the Behavioural Science Institute.
Father as role model
The research was carried out under young adults aged 18 to 25 years, most of whom did not live at home. Nevertheless, upbringing and the role of the parents still exert a small effect on the amount drunk.
For example, a high level of parental support is generally associated with less antisocial behavior and is correlated with less alcohol consumption in the presence of peers. The drinking behavior of the father affects that of the young person: if he drinks regularly then the children readily do the same.
If, however, he is more reserved then the same response is observed in the child. It is, however, not clear whether this is the result of genetic predisposition or imitation.
Group roles and friendships
The results of this study showed that 12 to 14 year olds are most influenced by classmates with a higher status and those with whom they want to be friends. These differences in influence were, however, not found in the observations of young adults. Here, a high degree of imitation was also found yet no distinction in influence was seen between best friends or participants with high status, the so-called leader figures.
Although these factors may play a role in the decision to actually go on a night out or indeed to leave the drinking situation, but within the situation they make no difference whatsoever.
Men determine the drinking behavior
Sex ratio in the group is a major determinant for alcohol use: the more men present, the greater the amount drunk by both men and women. Possibly a process might be initiated in male groups which ensures that men drink more than usual because participants challenge each other or because no one wants to be surpassed.
The observations revealed that men adjust their alcohol use to that of other group members far more than women do. Men also drank more, whereas women stopped drinking earlier in the presence of men who expect that alcohol use leads to sexual excitement.
Previous research had established that people drink less if they are actively involved in a game such as billiards, darts or a card game. However this study reveals that the lower consumption is made up for as soon as the game is over. This means that the total alcohol consumption is not influenced by what people do when they socialize.