Differences in Drinking Behaviors For Bucknell's Greek & Non-Greek Populations

A word of caution is warranted: these statistics that follow in no way imply causality. I would refer you to the student papers for good discussions of the problems in assigning cause and effect with observational data. The factors identified as being associated with heavier drinking may simply represent underlying personality traits that also lead students to drink more heavily.

The Harvard Alcohol study identified several characteristics that are correlated with higher rates of binge drinking. Of particular interest on this campus is the correlation between Greek status and drinking. The student paper on drinking in the Greek organizations sheds some light on the association here at Bucknell, finding that among drinkers, the consumption in an evening is similar between Greeks and non-Greeks, but that non-Greeks are more like to be abstainers. Several other measures are relevant to the question. First, as Figure 1 shows, students who drank in high school are more likely to think about joining or in fact become Greek, so the fraternity/sorority system may not in and of itself cause higher rates of drinking.

The survey also contains information about the parents' drinking habits and the family's attitude about drinking. If students from households that tolerate or accept heavier drinking are both more likely to binge and more likely to join the Greek system, then there is further evidence that some selection is contributing to the correlation between Greek status and drinking.

Table 1: Parent's Drinking Habits and Student's Greek Status & Drinking Habits

Father's Drinking Pr. Greek Given Father's Drinking Doesn't Drink Drinks 1 night a week Drinks 2 nights a week Drinks 3 or more nights a week % of fathers who:
Didn't Drink 44.7 29.8 21.3 34 14.9 25.8
Light Drinker 45.4 19.8 29.1 24.4 26.7 47.3
Moderate Drinker 58.3 13.9 11.1 41.7 33.3 19.8
Heavy Drinker 23.1 23.1 15.4 30.8 30.7 7.2

Mother's Drinking*

% of mothers who:
Didn't Drink 48.2 25.9 22.4 32.9 18.8 46.5
Light Drinker 45.2 16.7 23.8 27.4 32.1 45.9
Moderate Drinker 38.5 15.4 23.1 38.5 23 7.1

*Only 1 respondent indicated that his/her mother was a heavy drinker, and is omitted from the table.

The frequency of drinking in general increases with the parents' use of alcohol, but it is difficult to establish a clear correlation between Greek status and parents' use. Part of the difficulty is that very few students report heavy drinking on the part of either parent. The probability of joining a Greek organization declines with mother's use and at first increases with father's use, but drops off at the highest level.

Respondents were also asked about their family's attitudes about drinking: Table 2 shows the probability of Greek status by the different responses.

Table 2: Probability Greek, Given Family Attitudes
Didn't Approve 47
Accepted light/moderate 46.8
Accepted heavy 47.3
No agreement about drinking 66.7
Average 46.2

Aside from the last category, no important differences exist. It is difficult to interpret the last category, since it represents no clear agreement in the family about drinking, and represents only 10.4% of the sample.

Differences in Behaviors

How do Greeks and Independents differ in their behaviors? First, as Figure 2 exhibits, in usual consumption per night, Greeks are less likely to be abstainers, but for the highest consumption category, Greeks and Independents are identical:

More striking differences come when looking at nights drink in a typical week by Greek status. Greeks are clearly more frequent drinkers.

Greeks are 4 times as likely to drink 4 or more nights per week than independents and twice as likely to drink 3 nights per week- both frequencies that bleed into the school week.

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