Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Counseling and Human Services
Janine M. Bernard
alcohol-related consequences, college student drinking, mental health, sojourner adjustment, study abroad
Student Counseling and Personnel Services
The topic of college student drinking has been widely addressed in the literature. Traditional-aged college students are considered to be an at-risk population in terms of the problematic use of alcohol, putting them at risk for a wide range of negative consequences. College students who study abroad are a sub-group of students who may be vulnerable to increased alcohol-related consequences due to variables associated with being in an unfamiliar environment where alcohol is often more accessible. While previous studies have explored the impact that a range of factors has on alcohol-related consequences for students abroad, none has examined the impact that mental health has on consequences. The present study sought to address this gap in the literature by sampling college students (N = 157) who were participating in a study abroad program during Spring 2015. Specifically, it investigated how mental health, sojourner adjustment, and drinking motives impacted alcohol-related consequences for college students studying abroad. It also explored how mental health changed for students while abroad and how pre-abroad mental health impacted sojourner adjustment for the students. To operationalize the construct of mental health, the Distress Index of the Counseling Center Assessment of Psychological Symptoms-34 (CCAPS-34: Locke et al., 2012) was used. To operationalize sojourner adjustment, the Sojourner Adjustment Measure (SAM; Pedersen et al., 2011b) was used. To operationalize drinking motives, the Drinking Motives Questionnaire-Revised (Cooper, 1994) was used, and to operationalize alcohol-related consequences, the Rutgers Alcohol Problem Index modified (RAPI: White & Labouvie, 1989; modifications: Pedersen et al., 2012) was used.
Ten research hypotheses guided the study. It was hypothesized that poorer mental health as measured by an elevated Distress Index score (score that falls in the 70th percentile or above) on the CCAPS-34 would be associated with increased alcohol-related consequences; higher scores on the Social Interaction with Co-nationals subscale of the Sojourner Adjustment Measure would be associated with increased alcohol-related consequences; higher scores on the Homesickness/Feeling Out of Place subscale of the Sojourner Adjustment Measure would be associated with increased alcohol-related consequences; higher scores on the Coping Motives subscale of the Drinking Motives Questionnaire-Revised would be associated with increased alcohol-related consequences; higher scores on the Social Motives subscale of the Drinking Motives Questionnaire-Revised would be associated with increased alcohol-related consequences; higher scores on the Conformity Motives subscale of the Drinking Motives Questionnaire-Revised would be associated with increased alcohol-related consequences; higher scores on the Enhancement Motives subscale of the Drinking Motives Questionnaire-Revised would be associated with increased alcohol-related consequences; student mental health would decrease while students are abroad as evidenced by increases in Distress Index scores on the CCAPS-34; an elevated score (score that falls in the 70th percentile or above) on the Distress Index of the CCAPS-34 at pre-departure would predict lower sojourner adjustment as demonstrated by higher scores on negative sojourner adjustment scales and lower scores on the positive sojourner adjustment scales; pre-departure CCAPS-34 Distress Index scores that fell in the low range (score that falls below the 34th percentile) would predict sojourner adjustment as demonstrated by higher scores on the positive sojourner adjustment scales and lower scores on the negative sojourner adjustment scales.
The hypotheses were partially supported. While elevated scores on the distress index were not specifically associated with increased alcohol-related consequences as hypothesized, findings showed that students who were academically distressed or those who had concerns related to eating or alcohol use were more at risk for alcohol-related consequences. With regards to sojourner adjustment, neither of the negative Sojourner Adjustment Measure scales predicted increased alcohol-related consequences as hypothesized. In terms of the positive Sojourner Adjustment Measure scales, those who reported they had a strong sense of identification with the host culture had statistically significant decreased rates of alcohol-related consequences. Unexpectedly, participants who indicated that they had a high degree of interaction with host nationals had more alcohol-related consequences. Next, students who indicated they drank for social reasons were more likely to experience alcohol-related consequences, whereas students who drank for other reasons were not. While it was hypothesized that mental health would decrease for students while abroad, the results did not support this hypothesis. Results from post-hoc analyses showed that only scores related to eating concerns increased in a statistically significant way for students while abroad. There was an unanticipated statistically significant decrease in social anxiety for participants from pre-abroad to abroad. Finally, results showed that pre-departure distress predicted increased feelings of homesickness once abroad, decreased interaction with both co-nationals and host-nationals, and a decreased sense of identifying with the host culture.
The results of this study offer important insight into the experiences of students abroad, particularly with regards to student mental health. Moreover, these results can be used to guide future research and shape study abroad program practices and policies.
Thompson, Laura Kay, "HOW MENTAL HEALTH, SOJOURNER ADJUSTMENT, AND DRINKING MOTIVES IMPACT ALCOHOL-RELATED CONSEQUENCES FOR COLLEGE STUDENTS STUDYING ABROAD" (2015). Dissertations - ALL. 408.