Abstract: Alcohol Use among Muslim Youth: Protective and Risk factors (Society for Social Work and Research 14th Annual Conference: Social Work Research: A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES)

13231 Alcohol Use among Muslim Youth: Protective and Risk factors

Saturday, January 16, 2010: 11:00 AM
Seacliff D (Hyatt Regency)
* noted as presenting author
Wahiba Abu-Ras, PhD , Adelphi University, Assistant Professor, Garden City, NY
Sameera Ahmed, PhD , The Family & Youth Institute, Director, Canton, MI
Cynthia L. Arfken , Wayne State University, Associate Professor, Detroit, MI
Study Purpose: The transition to college is a vulnerable period in the developmental trajectory between childhood and adulthood. In general, this period represents an entrance to a new environment with potentially new norms of behavior, such as the widespread acceptance of drinking and at-risk drinking (Wechsler, Davenport, Dowdall, Moeykens, & Castillo, 1994). However, little is known about the impact on the behaviors of religious minorities, such as Muslim youth. Negotiating these norms may be especially challenging for Muslim students due to the religious injunction against alcohol use and the cultural taboo that has evolved among Muslims even if they are not observant. Based on Bronfrenbrenner's Ecologic Model (1979), we hypothesize that although alcohol would be viewed as accessible to Muslim college students, they would be less likely to drink than other students. In addition, Muslim students who abstained from alcohol would be more likely to come from families with strong role models of abstinence/disapproval of drinking, live at home, have fewer friends who engaged in at-risk drinking, and assign higher importance to participating in religious activities.

Methods: The public access database of the Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study. a nationally representative random sample of 119 4-year colleges conducted in 2001 was analyzed for the present study. Of the 10,401 students, 135 reported they were raised in Muslim families (1.3%). These Muslim students had a mean age of 20.96 (S.D. =2.26), were more likely male (65.2%) and reported a variety of racial heritages. Due to the limited sample size, analyses were restricted to bivariate testing.

Results: Muslim students reported alcohol was easily accessible (60%). About 47% of the Muslim students used alcohol compared to 80.4% of all students. There was no gender difference in abstinence rates but racial differences in rates approached significance (p=.09). Parental role models (p=003), parental disapproval of drinking (p<.001) and importance of participating in religious activities (p<.001) were associated with abstinence with the association with living at home (p=.07) approaching significance. Abstaining students were also less likely to have used drugs (p<.001) or tobacco (p<.001) in the past year. The number of friends who engaged in at-risk drinking was not associated with abstinence. Of the Muslim students who drank alcohol, 41% exhibited at-risk drinking and 76.7% began drinking prior to entering college.

Implications: This study is the first report on U.S. Muslim college students' use of alcohol, a group traditionally believed to be at low risk for alcohol use and at-risk drinking. Although the sample size is small and analysis is limited by questions available, the findings show that the Muslim students who abstain have protective factors consistent with our hypotheses and are also at lower risk for current drug and tobacco use. The findings, however, point to the need for a more current, focused and larger study on protective and risk factors amongst Muslim students, especially by racial heritage, to support prevention efforts and reduce at-risk drinking. Moreover, tailored preventative interventions need to begin earlier due to early initiation of alcohol use.