The Impact of Normative Perceptions on Alcohol Consumption in Military Veterans

Published in: Addiction [epub June 2017]. doi: 10.1111/add.13879

Posted on on July 14, 2017

by Heather Krieger, Eric R. Pedersen, Clayton Neighbors

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Background and Aims

Perceptions of both descriptive norms (prevalence of drinking) and injunctive norms (others' approval of drinking) relate to alcohol consumption, but mechanisms for these associations have received little attention, especially in military samples. This study tested the direct and indirect associations between perceived descriptive and injunctive norms on drinking through personal attitudes (i.e. personal approval) in a veteran sample.


Data were collected as part of a longitudinal randomized controlled alcohol intervention study. The study involved two time-points: baseline/intervention (time 1) and 1-month follow-up (time 2).


A national sample of veterans was recruited from Facebook to participate in an online study between June and October 2015.


Data included responses of 621 adult military veterans (age 18–34; 83% male).


Respondents reported on their weekly alcohol consumption (primary outcome), perceptions of typical drinking and approval by other same-gender veterans. Covariates included gender, intervention condition and combat experience.


Regression results found no significant effects of perceived descriptive or injunctive norms on time 2 drinking when accounting for the effects of personal attitudes, time 1 drinking and covariates. However, mediation analyses found support for personal attitudes as a mediator of the relationship between perceived descriptive norms and time 2 drinking [indirect effect = 0.003, standard deviation (SD) = 0.001, P = 0.001] and between perceived injunctive norms and time 2 drinking (indirect effect = 0.004, SE = 0.001, P < 0.001).


Attitudes to drinking appear to mediate the association between descriptive and injunctions norms about alcohol and subsequent level of alcohol consumption in US military personnel.

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