Abstract: Sexual Assault and Alcohol Consumption: Comparing First- and Non-First-Generation College Students (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

226P Sexual Assault and Alcohol Consumption: Comparing First- and Non-First-Generation College Students

Friday, January 18, 2019
Continental Parlors 1-3, Ballroom Level (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Claire Luce, Doctoral student, Virginia Commonwealth University
Laura Swan, MSW, Graduate Research Assistant, Virginia Commonwealth University
Danielle Dick, PhD, Professor, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
Karen Chartier, PhD, Assistant Professor, Virginia Commonwealth University, VA
Background and Purpose:  The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN; 2018) reports that 28.5% of college students aged 18-24 will experience sexual assault while enrolled. Empirical studies reinforce the connection between experiences of sexual assault and increased alcohol consumption. However, there is limited research about how sexual assault affects alcohol use in sub-populations, such as first-generation undergraduate students. These students experience significant stress compared to that of their peers, and yet there are often limited resources devoted to meeting their needs, potentially making them more vulnerable to traumatic experiences.

This study hypothesizes: (1) that college students who report experiencing sexual assault in the previous 12-months will report higher alcohol consumption than students who do not report sexual assault; and (2) college-generation status will have a moderating effect on the relationship between sexual assault and alcohol use. We expect higher reported alcohol consumption by survivors who are first-generation college students than those who are non-first-generation.

Methods: We used Aspelmeier et al.’s (2012) definition for first-generation, which states that neither of the student’s parents had earned an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. Data were from a longitudinal study on substance use and behavioral health by students at a large, public university in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States. We analyzed data collected in the spring of students’ third year when all study variables were available (N=2510). Approximately 3% of the sample (N=73) reported experiencing a sexual assault in the previous 12-months, and 29% (N=720) of the sample were first-generation college students. Only 20 students met criteria as first-generation college students and reported a sexual assault in the previous 12-months.

We ran a multivariate main effects model to test difference in grams of ethanol consumed per month between students who reported sexual assault and those who did not, accounting for the effects of first-generational status, gender, and residence (i.e., on-campus, off-campus, with family). We then added the interaction effect to this model to assess the moderating effect of first-generational status on the relationship between sexual assault and alcohol consumption. All analyses used bootstrapping to address the positive skewness of the dependent variable.

 Findings: Analyses partially supported our hypotheses. The main effect of sexual assault was significant (B=-259.834, SE=101.699, p=0.008), indicating that mean alcohol use was significantly higher in students who reported sexual assault (M=466.92, SD=800.73) than in those who reported no sexual assault (M=271.23, SD=483.44). First-generation student survivors (n=20) also reported higher levels of alcohol use (M=725.36, SD=286.48) compared to non-first-generation survivors (n=53; M=441.64, SD=96.25). However, generational status did not moderate the relationship.

Conclusions and Implications: This study examined the association of sexual assault and level of alcohol consumption among college students. Our finding of higher levels of consumption among first-generation students suggests that targeted support services might be indicated for this group. Given this source of vulnerability for this student group, the influence of generational status on the association of sexual assault and alcohol consumption should be examined in larger, more diverse samples.