Do High School and College Students View Alcohol as Liquid Courage?

Kara Powell

One of the pieces of our Sticky Faith research that didn’t surprise us, but did sadden us, was the ubiquitous presence of alcohol on the college campus.  It is everywhere, at everything, and is an assumed part of college culture.

A friend of mine sent me this article featuring research conducted by Ohio University on 400 college students.  Some of what was most disturbing in the article and initial research are the following highlights:

  • Students were shown blood alcohol levels using a Breathalyzer in the hopes that it would discourage additional drinking that evening.  The actual effect?  The OPPOSITE.  Students drank more.
  • Why?  One 22 year-old college senior gave an answer that seems to reflect a large portion of college students:  "I think everybody's aim is to get drunk on the weekend…It's not about the taste of the alcohol. It's about the effects of it. It's about the lowered inhibitions."
  • Here’s an insightful quote from the article:  Students in some studies described alcohol as offering "liquid courage”.  One researcher has included that drinking allows college students to “act out being sexually assertive, carefree, liberated” and excuses their behavior.
  • In fact, being drunk is something students boasted about, especially if it led to problematic behaviors.  If they sleep in and miss their class, that’s a bummer.  But if the reason they slept in was because they were drunk the night before, that’s a badge of honor.

Parents and leaders, we can’t ignore this data.  We can’t assume that students will make good choices in college, or high school for that matter.  Part of what we get to—and have to—do is TALK with our kids.  Maybe even share this article as a conversation springboard, and don’t be afraid to ask questions during the school year.  


Published Aug 23, 2011
Kara Powell

Kara Powell, PhD, is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI) and a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary. As a youth ministry veteran of over 20 years, she serves as an Advisor to Youth Specialties. Named by Christianity Today as one of "50 Women You Should Know", Kara is the author or co-author of a number of books including Sticky Faith, Essential Leadership, Deep Justice Journeys, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum.

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