Why do high school seniors drink? Implications for a targeted approach to intervention

Donna L. Coffman, Megan E. Patrick, Lori Ann Palen, Brittany L. Rhoades, Alison K. Ventura

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


The transition from high school to college provides a potentially critical window to intervene and reduce risky behavior among adolescents. Understanding the motivations (e.g., social, coping, enhancement) behind high school seniors' alcohol use could provide one important avenue to reducing risky drinking behaviors. In the present study, latent class analysis was used to examine the relationship between different patterns of drinking motivations and behaviors in a sample of 12th graders (N∈=∈1,877) from the 2004 Monitoring the Future survey. Unlike previous variable-centered analyses, this person-centered approach identifies types of motivations that cluster together within individuals and relates membership in these profiles to drinking behaviors. Results suggest four profiles of drinking motivations for both boys and girls, including Experimenters, Thrill-seekers, Multi-reasoners, and Relaxers. Early initiation of alcohol use, past year drunkenness, and drinking before 4 p.m. were associated with greater odds of membership in the Multi-reasoners class as compared to the Experimenters class. Although the strength of these relationships varied for boys and girls, findings were similar across gender suggesting that the riskiest drinking behavior was related to membership in the Multi-reasoners class. These findings can be used to inform prevention programming. Specifically, targeted interventions that tailor program content to the distinct drinking motivation profiles described above may prove to be effective in reducing risky drinking behavior among high school seniors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)241-248
Number of pages8
JournalPrevention Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2007
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Preparation of this paper was supported by National Institute on Drug Abuse Center grant P50 DA10075, National Institute on Drug Abuse Training grant T32 DA017629-01A1, and by the Pennsylvania State University Bennett Prevention Fellowship. We would like to thank Linda Collins, Stephanie Lanza, Joe Schafer, and the Prevention & Methodology Training fellows for helpful feedback on this paper. D.L.Coffman.M.E.Patrick.L.A.Palen.B.L.Rhoades The Prevention Research Center, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA


  • Alcohol use
  • High school seniors
  • Latent class analysis
  • Targeted interventions


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