Behavior change versus stability during the college-to-work transition: Life course and the “stickiness” of alcohol misuse at career entry

Songqi Liu, Peter Bamberger, Mo Wang, Inbal Nahum-Shani, Mary Larimer, Samuel B. Bacharach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

To what extent and under what conditions do college graduates disengage from employment-incompatible behaviors during the college-to-work (C2W) transition? Drawing from the life course perspective, we proposed a model highlighting considerable stability of employment-incompatible behaviors during initial months of organizational socialization. Our model predicted that maturing out of such behaviors, which is expected by employers and beneficial to career adjustment, would be more likely to occur given a conducive transition context. Using a large dataset tracking graduates from their last semester in college to up to approximately 1.5 years after graduation and with alcohol use as our empirical referent, we demonstrated that a pattern of high-risk drinking behavior may remain even after the transition into full-time employment. We further showed that lower levels of perceived cohort drinking norms and higher levels of mentoring were associated with a higher probability of maturing out, manifesting in a transition from a high-risk drinking profile before graduation to a moderate drinking profile after starting full-time employment. Finally, we found that maturing out was associated with lagged outcomes including lower levels of sleep problems and depression and fewer workdays lost to absenteeism, thus underscoring the consequential nature of behavior profile shifts during the C2W transition.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPersonnel Psychology
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

Keywords

  • alcohol use
  • behavior change
  • cohort drinking norms
  • life course
  • mentoring

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