Trajectories of Binge Drinking and Personality Change Across Emerging Adulthood

James R. Ashenhurst, Kathryn P. Harden, William Corbin, Kim Fromme

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


College students binge drink more frequently than the broader population, yet most individuals 'mature out' of binge drinking. Impulsivity and sensation seeking traits are important for understanding who is at risk for maintaining binge drinking across college and the transition to adult roles. We use latent class growth analysis (LCGA) to examine longitudinal binge-drinking trajectories spanning from the end of high school through 2 years after college (M ages = 18.4 to 23.8). Data were gathered over 10 waves from students at a large Southwestern university (N = 2,245). We use latent factor models to estimate changes in self-reported impulsive (IMP) and sensation-seeking (SS) personality traits across 2 time periods-(a) the end of high school to the end of college and (b) the 2-year transition out of college. LCGA suggested 7 binge-drinking trajectories: frequent, moderate, increasing, occasional, low increasing, decreasing, and rare. Models of personality showed that from high school through college, change in SS and IMP generally paralleled drinking trajectories, with increasing and decreasing individuals showing corresponding changes in SS. Across the transition out of college, only the increasing group demonstrated a developmentally deviant increase in IMP, whereas all other groups showed normative stability or decreases in both IMP and SS. These data indicate that 'late bloomers' who begin binge drinking only in the later years of college, are a unique at-risk group for drinking associated with abnormal patterns of personality maturation during emerging adulthood. Our results indicate that personality targeted interventions may benefit college students.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)978-991
Number of pages14
JournalPsychology of Addictive Behaviors
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015


  • binge drinking
  • college drinking
  • impulsivity
  • personality maturation
  • sensation seeking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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