To Drink or Not To Drink: The Role of Religion and Family in Drinking Patterns Among Emerging Adults

Doctoral Dissertation


The following dissertation looks at individuals who have transitioned out of the teenage or adolescent years yet have not fully established themselves as independent adults in order to address the question of religion’s role in shaping behavior. Despite previous research considering the connections between religion and alcohol consumption, theoretical insights into the mechanisms that link religion and substance use or abuse remain incomplete. This dissertation primarily examines the influence of religion and religious practice on alcohol consumption among 18 to 25 year olds. With religion as the principal factor under investigation, this work also looks at social and familial context to further understand the competing factors that affect patterns of consumption. Using data from all three waves of the National Study of Youth and Religion (NSYR), which is a comprehensive investigation into the religious lives of American youth, I argue that religious belief and participation contributes something unique to the lives of young adults that shapes the way they behave in positive ways.
Results indicate that when examining patterns of alcohol use, within the emerging adult population, religion and religious involvement are important factors to consider in conjunction with social and familial context. Specifically, religious affiliation, organizational religious participation, and non-organizational religious participation each affect consumption to differing degrees. However, the principal mechanism by which religion influences consumption is through the non-organizational act of reading sacred scriptures, suggesting the utility of spiritual capital in producing positive outcomes. Additionally, results indicate that family context exerts an indirect effect on binge drinking while prior heavy drinking and social context exert strong direct effects. Results reveal that prior antisocial behavior wields a stronger influence on later antisocial behavior than peer relationships. Lastly, findings show that not all conservative Protestants are alike in whether or how often they drink alcohol and differences in the factors that influence that behavior are present. Disaggregating conservative Protestants into smaller subgroups for analysis reveals heterogeneity that would otherwise be missed.


Attribute NameValues
  • etd-07232010-024920

Author Brooke Elizabeth Underwood Fischer
Advisor David Sikkink
Contributor Kevin Christiano, Committee Member
Contributor Bill Carbonaro, Committee Member
Contributor David Klein, Committee Member
Contributor David Sikkink, Committee Chair
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline Sociology
Degree Name Doctor of Philosophy
Defense Date
  • 2010-06-22

Submission Date 2010-07-23
  • United States of America

  • binge drinking

  • family

  • alcohol studies

  • emerging adults

  • religion

  • college

  • University of Notre Dame

  • English

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units

Digital Object Identifier


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