Testing Sampson and Laub's life course theory: Age, race/ethnicity, and drunkenness

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37 Scopus citations


This study examines racial/ethnic differences in drunkenness in early to middle adulthood, a period during which the literature suggests that heavy drinking patterns diverge markedly for Whites, African Americans, and Hispanics. Using the 1991 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, a nationally representative sample of the household population in the United States, differences in past-year times drunk for 18- to 39-year-old Whites, African Americans, and Hispanics are explored. A test of Sampson and Laub's (1990, 1993) life course theory is conducted to examine whether racial/ethnic differences in frequency of drunkenness associated with age remain once adult social bond measures are held constant. Although group differences in adult social bonds are evidenced, and such bonds are associated with fewer times drunk, the results indicate that the life course theory is unable to explain racial/ethnic differences in drunkenness associated with age. Whites' "age out" of drunkenness, while African Americans and Hispanics do not. The institution of marriage and other background variables also interact with race/ethnicity in predicting frequency of drunkenness. The implications of these findings for the applicability of Sampson and Laub's theory for explaining drinkingpatterns of members of all racial/ethnic groups are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)129-151
Number of pages23
JournalDeviant Behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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