U.S. College Students' Social Network Characteristics and Perceived Social Exclusion: A Comparison Between Drinkers and Nondrinkers Based on Past-Month Alcohol Use

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Quantitative Health Sciences

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Document Type



Psychological Phenomena and Processes | Psychology | Sociology | Substance Abuse and Addiction


OBJECTIVE: There is a general perception on college campuses that alcohol use is normative. However, nondrinking students account for 40% of the U.S. college population. With much of the literature focusing on intervening among drinkers, there has been less of a focus on understanding the nondrinker college experience. The current study has two aims: to describe the social network differences between nondrinkers and drinkers in a college setting, and to assess perceived social exclusion among nondrinkers.

METHOD: First-year U.S. college students (n = 1,342; 55.3% female; 47.7% non-Hispanic White) were participants in a larger study examining a social network of one college class and network associations with alcohol use. Alcohol use, sociocentric and egocentric network ties were assessed, as were experiences of social exclusion related to nondrinking.

RESULTS: Drinking homophily based on past-month use was found; students tended to associate with others with a similar drinking status. Compared with drinkers, nondrinkers received fewer network nominations within the first-year network and made more nominations outside the first-year network. Nondrinkers' perceived social exclusion was positively related to the number of drinkers in their social networks, such that those with more drinkers in their network reported more social exclusion.

CONCLUSIONS: College students' past-month drinking status in the first semester of college is related to their network position and perception of social exclusion. Nondrinking students who are part of a nondrinking community are less likely to feel socially excluded. Improving our understanding of the nondrinker college experience should improve support services for these students.

DOI of Published Version



J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2018 Nov;79(6):862-867.

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of studies on alcohol and drugs

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Link to Article in PubMed