A self-fulfilling prophecy : investigating the role of normative misperceptions in the student drinking culture at Stellenbosch University

Tolken, Johnnie Eigelaar (2011-03)

Thesis (MA)--University of Stellenbosch, 2011.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This thesis explores the existence of misperceptions regarding the peer‐drinking norm among undergraduate students at Stellenbosch University and the role of these misperceptions in explaining students’ drinking behaviour. A more permissive perception of the drinking norm has been associated with heavier alcohol consumption and negative consequences for oneself, others and property. Perceptions of the academic norm and its relation to personal academic and drinking behaviour are also investigated. Furthermore, the study examines the role of perceptions of the drinking norm in personal drinking behaviour in the context of other cognitive factors (perceptions), experiences prior to enrolling at university, as well as socio‐demographic and contextual factors. The theoretical framework used to understand the origin, occurrence and perpetuation of misperceptions regarding the social norm includes Bourdieu’s theory of habitus, social norms theory, social learning theory and attribution theory. Data were collected from 640 students out of a random sample of 3 177 who had been invited to participate in a web‐based survey during September 2009. In addition, 18 personal semi‐structured interviews were conducted with students.   Similar to findings of research in other countries, the results of this research show that students at Stellenbosch University tend to perceive other students’ drinking behaviour (descriptive norm) and approval of drinking behaviour (injunctive norm) as more permissive than their own. The degree of misperception increases as the social distance of reference groups increases and is also significantly related to personal alcohol consumption. There is also evidence of misperceptions regarding the academic norm and its association with personal drinking behaviour and academic behaviour. Multiple regression analysis reveals that the perceived drinking norm of close friends is the best predictor of personal drinking behaviour, followed by personal approval of drinking and drinking behaviour during the last year of high school. The data presented here for Stellenbosch University students extend the evidence that peer drinking norms are misperceived and highlights the importance of a student’s experiences before enrolling at university. Furthermore, it provides evidence that misperceiving the drinking norm is a pervasive problem that may have behavioural consequences. Various American higher education institutions have developed and implemented campaigns aimed at correcting these misperceptions. This has resulted in significant reductions in misperceptions as well as in heavy drinking among students. Students at Stellenbosch University and elsewhere might also benefit from these types of intervention strategies.  

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie tesis ondersoek die bestaan van wanpersepsies aangaande die portuurgroep‐drinknorm onder voorgraadse studente aan Universiteit Stellenbosch en die rol daarvan in die verduideliking van studente se drinkgedrag. ’n Meer liberale persepsie van die drinknorm hou verband met swaarder alkoholgebruik en meer negatiewe gevolge vir die persoon self, ander en eiendom. Die studie ondersoek ook persepsies van die akademiese norm en die verband daarvan met persoonlike akademiese en drinkgedrag. Verder word die rol van persepsies van die drinknorm in persoonlike alkoholgebruik in die konteks van ander bewussynsfaktore (persepsies), ervarings voor inskrywing by die universiteit, asook sosiaal‐demografiese en kontekstuele faktore ondersoek. Die studie maak gebruik van die teoretiese raamwerke van Bourdieu se habitus, sosiale norm‐teorie, sosiale leer‐teorie en attributasieteorie om die oorsprong, aanwesigheid en voortsetting van wanpersepsies te verstaan. Data is versamel onder 640 studente uit ’n ewekansige steekproef van 3 177 studente wat uitgenooi was om gedurende September 2009 aan ’n webgebaseerde opname deel te neem. Daar is ook 18 in‐diepte semi‐gestruktureerde onderhoude met studente gevoer.   Soortgelyk aan bevindinge van navorsing in ander lande, toon resultate van hierdie navorsing dat studente aan Universiteit Stellenbosch geneig is om ander studente se drinkgedrag (beskrywende norm) en goedkeuring van alkoholverbruik (injunktiewe norm) as meer liberaal as hulle eie waar te neem. Die graad van wanpersepsie neem toe namate die sosiale afstand van verwysingsgroepe toeneem en hou ook betekenisvol verband met persoonlike alkoholgebruik. Daar is ook bewyse van wanpersepsies aangaande die akademiese norm en die verband daarvan met persoonlike drink‐  en akademiese gedrag. Resultate van ’n meervoudige regressie‐ontleding wys dat die waargenome drinknorm van goeie vriende die beste voorspeller van persoonlike drinkgedrag is, gevolg deur persoonlike goedkeuring van alkoholgebruik en drinkgedrag gedurende die laaste jaar van hoërskool. Die data van Stellenbosse studente lewer verder bewys dat portuurgroep‐drinknorme verkeerdelik waargeneem word en beklemtoon die belangrikheid van studente se vorige ervarings. Dit bewys ook dat die verkeerde waarneming van die drinknorm ’n konstante probleem is wat gedragsgevolge kan hê. Verskeie Amerikaanse universiteite het al veldtogte ontwikkel en geïmplementeer gemik op die regstel van dié wanpersepsies, en dit het wanpersepsies en swaar drankgebruik onder studente betekenisvol verminder. Studente aan Universiteit Stellenbosch en elders sal waarskynlik ook by soortgelyke intervensiestrategieë baat vind.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/6499
This item appears in the following collections: