The Leader Factor: Patterns of Alcohol Use, Negative Consequences, and Alcohol-Related Beliefs for Leaders and Non-leaders of Student Organizations

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Virginia Tech

The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between student leadership and alcohol use. Previous literature had examined alcohol use of leaders and non-leaders in high-use organizations — Greeks and athletes. This study extends that literature by focusing on leaders and non-leaders in low-use organizations, and by examining students with multiple leadership roles.

The research used existing data from the Core Alcohol and Drug Survey. A random sample of 2,000 respondents was obtained from the Core Institute at Southern Illinois University – Carbondale. Respondents were leaders and non-leader members of minority and ethnic organizations and religious and interfaith groups. From this total sample, 624 students were active in minority organizations only, 865 were involved in religious groups only, and 511 were active in both. Dependent variables were drawn from four questions on the Core Survey concerning average number of drinks per week, consumption of five or more drinks at one sitting, negative consequences of alcohol use, and alcohol-related beliefs.

No statistically significant differences were found in the alcohol use of leader and non-leaders who were active only in minority groups. Significant differences were found however, between leaders and non-leaders who were active only in religious groups. For these groups, leaders consumed alcohol, engaged in high-risk drinking, experienced negative consequences, and ascribed to alcohol-related myths at a lower rate than those not in leadership positions. Student in dual leadership positions across the whole sample reported significantly higher alcohol use than student involved in one leadership position. Students with leadership roles in both minority and religious organizations drank approximately three times as much (9.75 per week) as those who are leaders in only one type of organization (2.75 per week).

The results of this study, understood in the context of the existing literature on alcohol and leadership in high-use organizations, suggest that a Leader Factor may exist: Leaders of student organizations tend to drink at least as much as non-leaders, and those with multiple leadership roles have the highest rate of involvement with alcohol. The single exception to this rule is leaders who are active in religious groups only.

Leadership, Core Survey, Religious Groups, College Students, Minority Organizations, Leaders, Alcohol Use, High-Risk Drinking