Alyssa Prawl

Bound Volume Number

Volume V

Degree Type

Honors Capstone Project

Date of Submission

Spring 5-2016

Capstone Advisor

Aesoon Park

Capstone Major


Capstone College

Arts and Science

Audio/Visual Component



DRD4, descriptive peer norms, injunctive peer norms, impulsivity, drinking

Capstone Prize Winner


Won Capstone Funding


Honors Categories

Sciences and Engineering

Subject Categories



Young adult alcohol use is a prevalent and significant public health concern, influenced by a complex interplay of genetic, personality, and social factors. Greater descriptive norms (i.e., perceptions of peer drinking behavior) and injunctive norms (i.e., perceptions of peer drinking acceptability) have been associated with increased young adult drinking. Further emerging research suggest that the association between peer norms and alcohol outcomes may be exacerbated by carrying a 7-repeat allele of the DRD4 VNTR. Presence of a 7-repeat allele has also been associated with greater impulsivity (i.e., novelty-seeking and sensation seeking), but it remains unknown whether such heightened impulsivity explains why carriers drink more than noncarriers at high levels of peer drinking norms. The current study examined whether impulsivity accounted for such DRD4 VNTR-related differences in susceptibility to perceived peer drinking norms. Participants were 113 Caucasian, moderate to heavy drinking young adults (50% female; mean age = 22 years [SD = 2.23]). Generalized negative binomial models revealed that DRD4 VNTR genotype moderated the relationship between descriptive (although not injunctive) peer norms and frequency of heavy drinking; descriptive norms were more strongly associated with more frequent heavy drinking among carriers of a 7-repeat allele than among noncarriers. Impulsivity was not significantly associated with any alcohol outcomes afteraccounting for these moderating effects and covariates. Our findings suggest that young adults carrying a high-risk DRD4 VNTR variant may be more susceptible to the alcohol-promoting influences of perceived peer drinking behavior, although impulsivity may not account for such differences. Future research should examine whether other aspects of personality (e.g., extraversion), alcohol-related cognitions (e.g., drinking motives), or mood (e.g., anxiety) account for such differences in DRD4 VNTR-related susceptibility to peer drinking norms

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Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

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