Personal Projects and Alcohol Use: An Integrative Social Cognitive Approach


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Virginia Tech


Despite the potential for unwanted consequences, college students continue to drink at high rates. Greater than 80% of college students drink alcohol and about 40% engage in occasions of heavy episodic drinking. Heavy episodic drinking among college students is associated with increased instances of verbal confrontations, physical fights, unprotected sex, vandalism, and driving while under the influence.

From a dynamic ecological perspective, goals represent a context in which drinking and all other endeavors occur, as well as a third social cognitive variable worthy of investigation in alcohol studies. As a technology for studying goal constructs, personal projects (Little, 1983; 1987; 1998) are embodiments of desired attainments an individual is trying to actualize. The present study examined the ability of goal constructs (i.e., personal project attributes)to explain drinking variance, both in combination and beyond known social cognitive determinants of alcohol use.

In a cross-sectional sample of 104 male and 96 female college students, results indicated that alcohol self-efficacy was the strongest predictor of alcohol consumption (b = -.38; p < .01), followed by goal involvement (b = -.23; p < .01) and negative drinking expectancies (b = -.12; p < .05). Positive drinking expectancies (b = -.42; p < .01) and goal efficacy (b = .15; p < .05) were significant determinants of alcohol efficacy. The complete model explained 33% of the variance in drinking, as measured by a 90-day timeline follow-back. The unique and indirect contributions of goal involvement are major findings of the study, indicating the viability of a dynamic ecological approach within the SCT framework.



Self-efficacy, College Students, Drinking, Goals