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September 05, 2012 5:01 PM Drinking to Conformity

By Derrick Haynes

Authors of a recent study investigated the relationship between socio-cultural factors such as social status that affect the level binge drinking on a college campus.

Caroline Hsu, a co-author of the study and an associate professor of sociology at New York’s Colgate University, presented the study’s result at a major sociological conference.

Hsu and former Colgate colleague surveyed 1,595 students at an upstate New York college. Results from the student body surveyed showed that binge drinking made them happier than Sober Salliesand other buzz killer-types.

Happiness, defined as “social satisfaction” in the study’s survey on a seven-point scale in response to the question “I feel very positive about my social experience on campus overall.”

Shotty

However, some students were reluctant about getting “lit.” “I don’t want to get drunk, but I feel like I don’t belong here if I don’t,” is a representative response from those surveyed, especially the lower status students.

“Lower status” students - basically, non-jocks or non-Greeks - didn’t drink more than their higher status peers, but sought to conform with the crowd when given the opportunity. Higher status student - meaning, more well-off students and members of Greek fraternities and sororities - drink more than lower status students who may emulate them in order to fit in and not be seen as different.

Higher status students also abused booze to maintain happiness. The jocks and Greeks who didn’t join in drinking free-for-alls felt as if their social status was in danger of being lost.

“[W]hen high status students fail to engage in the symbolic high status behavior of binge drinking, they cannot access the full benefits of their status,” the study’s authors write. [Image via]

Derrick Haynes is an intern at the Washington Monthly.