Sunday, October 31, 2010

Dress to Impress


Have you gotten your Halloween costume all picked out? What are you going to be this year?

I was interested in journal articles about Halloween practices and so did a quick literature search. Mostly I came up with articles about whether and how we should inspect and X-ray the candy kids get when they go trick-or-treating. Instead of choosing that necessary but creepy topic, I picked a study on the partying habits of college students on Halloween.

If you've been to college, lived around a college, or just know anything about college students then you know that many students use...how shall I put it?...mind altering substances. In 1988, 90% of 18 to 25 year olds had tried alcohol, 65% were considered current alcohol users, 56% had tried marijuana, and 15% were considered current marijuana users. This same age group also reported having tried or used other drugs such as cocaine (20%), stimulants (11%), and sedatives (5%). This study was published in 1993 and so, admittedly, its stats from 1988 were newer then and probably have changed some since then, and vary considerably. But, because we are discussing this paper specifically, let's go with it.

Halloween is a major party opportunity for students. It is also an opportunity to dress in costume. This study took a look at the behavior of college students and the role that Halloween costumes play in whether students masquerade with a group and if these factors relate to alcohol and drug use. Why should wearing a costume make such a difference? Well, it has to do both with the relationship between dress behavior and self as well as the disguise of identity.

The study looked at a total of 1,253 students from two colleges in upstate New York and included both sexes across all age ranges and class years. A questionnaire called "Halloween Activities" was administered to the students to gauge their Halloween partying practices. The questionnaire revealed dressing in costume to be associated with alcohol use, in fact, 85% of those who partied on Halloween used alcohol. There was no relationship between wearing a costume and drug use, though. They asked students if they used costumes to hide or disguise their identity and related that to alcohol use, and they found no significant association. On the topic of "masquerading with a group" they found an association between drugs and groups, but of those who used these substances a greater number did not masquerade with a group.

The study advises educators to "emphasize that dressing in costume can be a positive social experience - one that allows for creative expression of the self - and that alcohol and other drugs are not necessary to enhance this experience," that students could dress "for both fun and fantasy when wearing a costume."

Here's the paper:
Miller, Kimberly A., Cynthia R. Jasper, and Donald R. Hill (1993) Dressing in costume and the use of alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs by college students. Adolescence: Spring 1993; 28(109), 189-198. (PMID: 8456608)
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