Alcohol-related infractions among college students: associations with subsequent drinking as a function of sensitivity to punishment

Psychol Addict Behav. 2011 Jun;25(2):352-7. doi: 10.1037/a0023614.


Problematic alcohol use on college campuses is a significant concern. Violations of campus alcohol policies can lead to disciplinary action from the university. These and other alcohol-related legal infractions may be a sign of significant alcohol-related problems. However, few studies have focused on determining predictors of alcohol-related infractions among college students. Likewise, the role of infractions in reducing future use is unclear. In the present study, we tested whether alcohol-related infractions were associated with decreased alcohol use, and whether the effect of the infraction varied as a function of initial drinking levels, sensitivity to punishment (SP), and sensitivity to reward (SR) in a 6-month prospective design. Alcohol use, grade point average, and SR were significantly associated with receiving an alcohol-related infraction. For heavier drinkers, receiving an infraction was associated with decreased drinking at follow-up, and this decrease was most pronounced among those with higher sensitivity to punishment. SP appeared to increase responsiveness to the infraction, resulting in greater attenuation of drinking at follow-up.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Policy*
  • Punishment / psychology*
  • Students / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Universities*