Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Patricia A. Adler

Second Advisor

Leslie Irvine

Third Advisor

Sara Steen

Fourth Advisor

Peter Simonson

Fifth Advisor

Tom Vander Ven


I examine the social controls that operate among and upon emerging adults as they navigate university life and the college party scene. The data are drawn from six years of participant-observation and 90 in-depth interviews with junior and senior level college students. First, I explore students' first years of college and the structural, cultural, and interactional dynamics that often contribute to excessive and irresponsible partying behaviors. I also investigate the formal and medical university sanctions used to manage student substance use and discuss the manifest and latent consequences of these punitive control mechanisms. Next, I examine the transformation in social control for students, the law, the community, and the State fostered by a thriving medical marijuana dispensary system. Specifically, I explore the motivations students have to become medical marijuana cardholders and the ramifications this emerging social process has on students' perceptions of agency, the conventional social order, and State control. Finally, I examine how students learn to regulate and moderate their drug and alcohol use through informal control processes such as peer networks, gender norms, and academic demands. I focus particularly on the accomplishment of femininity to exhibit the potency of informal regulations through peer groups. I conclude by discussing how informal methods of social regulation, fostered through cultural or structural shifts or learned through peers and individual experience, provide more effective guidance and socialization than formal controls for students throughout their collegiate careers. Lastly, I review how my empirical findings illuminate sociological understandings of formal, medical, and informal control mechanism.

Included in

Sociology Commons