Underage Drinking,
Respect for the Law,
and Fitting In:
Were the Prophets of Prohibition
Right?
Hope Dischar & Perilou Goddard
Department of Psychological Science
Northern Kentucky University
• Prohibition (192033) challenged our
notion of ourselves
as law-abiding
citizens
• Widespread
disregard for the
laws of Prohibition
were thought to
undermine respect
for all law
• More Prohibition fallout
• Law breaking went from marginalized to
mainstream behavior
Parallels of Prohibition Today
• Underage drinking
• Nearly 10 million
underage drinkers in
2010 (SAMHSA, 2010)
• Marijuana use
• Nearly 17.4 million pastmonth marijuana users
in 2010 (SAMHSA, 2010)
Hypotheses
• Underage drinking and marijuana use
would be associated with
• less respect for the law
• greater sense of “fitting in” with
mainstream society
Participants and Procedure
• Participants
• 162 undergraduates 18 to 20 years old
• 105 females, 57 males
• 10% were African-American, 3% were Hispanic, and
79% were White
• Procedure
• Participants completed all measures anonymously in
50-minute live sessions (not online)
• Consent form, questionnaires assessing each of the
relevant variables, and debriefing
Measuring Alcohol and Marijuana Use
• We created indices based on self-reported
frequency of use
•
•
•
•
•
1: Have never used
2: Have not used in past year
3: Have used in past year but not in past month
4: Have used on fewer than 10 days in past month
5: Have used on 10 days or more in past month
Measuring Respect for the Law
• Respect for the Law Scale developed for this study
to tap beliefs about the legitimacy of the law
• 16 statements rated on 7-point Likert scales
• 1 = strongly disagree, 7 = strongly agree
• Representative items
• Laws in the U.S. are best described as “of the people,
by the people.”
• We have the ability to change the laws we don’t agree
with by voting for officials who will represent our
views.
• We are obligated to obey the laws because we help
make the laws.
• Moderate internal consistency (α = .84)
Measuring the Sense of “Fitting In”
• Scale developed by Cozzarelli & Karafa (1998) to
measure the similarities between individuals’
personal beliefs/values and their perception of
American beliefs/values
• 9 statements rated on 7-point Likert scales
• 1 = strongly disagree, 7 = strongly agree
• Representative items
• I strongly identify with American values.
• I feel that many of my values are more or less universal.
• Moderate internal consistency (α = .80)
Alcohol Use
National vs. NKU Data
Alcohol Lifetime
Prevalence
Alcohol 12-month
Prevalence
NSDUH
data
85.7%
78.7%
NKU
data
82.7%
77.2%
• NSDUH data (2010) were calculated for persons aged 18 to 25
• NKU data included ONLY 18- to 20-year olds
Marijuana Use
National vs. NKU Data
Marijuana Lifetime
Prevalence
Marijuana 12month Prevalence
NSDUH
data
51.1 %
29.8%
NKU
data
54.3%
43.2%
• It’s pretty clear that lots of NKU students like their cannabis!
Hypothesis 1: More frequent underage drinking and
marijuana use will be associated with less respect for
the law
Correlation with
Respect for Law
Scale
p value
Underage Drinking Index
-.14
.069
Marijuana Use Index
-.20
.010
The hypothesis was partially supported:
Marijuana use was significantly associated with less respect
for the law, but underage drinking was not (at least not
quite).
Hypothesis 2: More frequent underage drinking and
marijuana use will be associated with a greater sense
of “fitting in”
Correlation with
“Fitting In” Scale
p value
Underage Drinking Index
.31
<.001
Marijuana Use Index
.06
.429
Again, our hypothesis was partially supported:
More frequent underage drinking was significantly
associated with greater feelings of “fitting in,” but
marijuana use was not.
Conclusions
• The prophets of Prohibition were partially right
• Students who regularly violated the prohibition
against marijuana showed significantly less
respect for the law
• However, frequent underage drinkers did not
• Perhaps drinking by underage college students is
so normative that they don’t even think of it as
breaking the law
Conclusions
• Our data about fitting in are consistent with this
explanation
• The more frequently underage students drank,
the more they felt they fit in with mainstream
America
Implications
• There is strong evidence that minimum legal
drinking age laws have some benefits
• e.g., reduced motor vehicle deaths
• However, these laws clearly do not serve as
effective deterrents to drinking for many young
people
• Perhaps it’s time to think more creatively about
policies to reduce drinking-related harms
without focusing so much on the legality of the
drinking age
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Underage Drinking, Respect for the Law, and Fitting In