Graduation Term


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

Corinne Zimmerman


Heavy alcohol consumption in college increases risk for sexual assault, decreases academic performance, and can lead to future development of alcohol-related problems or negative developmental outcomes. Given these potential negative consequences, it is critical to investigate ways emerging adults at colleges are using and abusing alcohol. Previous research has shown that unplanned drinking is related to negative outcomes; therefore, examining predictors of unplanned drinking is important for determining at-risk groups. The current study investigated variables that are established predictors of alcohol use and misuse in emerging adults, including impulsivity, caregiver problem drinking, and age of onset alcohol use. These variables served as predictors in a model of unplanned drinking. Unplanned drinking was captured through participation in a 10-day daily diary study. Heaviest alcohol consumption day during the 10-day period was examined for each participant. This day chosen as it represents a participant’s riskiest day of consumption. An unplanned drinking score was computed by subtracting a participant’s planned consumption from reported actual consumption. By controlling for age and gender in a sample of emerging adult alcohol consumers, I sought to identify predictors of unplanned drinking that can be characterized as unplanned overconsumption, planned alcohol use, and unplanned drinking moderation (i.e., drinking less than planned). Results did not support hypotheses; however, descriptive statistics revealed characteristics specific to the unplanned overconsumption group. Participants consumed more alcohol than planned when they began drinking regularly at an earlier age. Gender differences were evident with respect to patterns of overconsumption, met alcohol plans, and unplanned moderation. The current study attempted to fill a gap in current alcohol use literature by focusing on unplanned alcohol consumption, capitalizing on data from an intensive longitudinal design. Although findings were not consistent with hypotheses, other results demonstrated differences in how emerging adults were consuming alcohol on their riskiest day of consumption. These differences have the potential to educate emerging adults of risks associated with unplanned drinking and support alcohol prevention strategies at Universities.


Page Count