The results of the surveys that the partygoers completed as part of the study showed that while 61.3 percent of respondents reported being at the party to socialize, and 45 percent reported having fun as a main motivation, nearly 40 percent of all respondents said they were at the party to get drunk. More than 21 percent said they were there to try to meet a sexual partner.
And the graduate students involved with the research say they feel college parties could be getting even sexier — and less inhibited.
"The most surprising thing that I've seen was how sexualized the theme parties are, kind of like the way Halloween parties have changed, the kind of costumes girls wear now," said Julie Ketchie, a doctoral student researcher who is now working with Clapp on similar research. "There are these girls walking down the street, and you can see their butts hanging out of their skirts."
"The theme parties, it's kind of like 'Spring Break: Girls Gone Wild' all the time."
Of course, not all of the gatherings the researchers attend are out-of-control, inebriated blowouts.
"Some parties can be chill — 10 to 15 people watching football game and it's a BYOB thing, versus a larger party where they have kegs and drinking games," Ketchie said.
But Clapp notes that at the most lively parties, the breath tests from some students showed that they were putting themselves at risk.
"The alcohol levels we got from Breathalyzer tests were fairly high; it would meet the definition of legally drunk at pretty much every stage," Clapp said. "We had a range, with some people really, really drunk."
Clapp and his team report that in the surveys completed by partygoers, 32 percent reported playing a drinking game, and more than 70 percent report having access to illicit drugs. While the researchers were only able to confirm the availability of illicit drugs at 12 percent of these parties, alcohol remained a major factor; nearly 90 percent of all of the party guests who took a Breathalyzer test were intoxicated, with average scores near 0.08 percent blood alcohol concentration.
And Clapp adds that the location of a party can often play a big part in how intoxicated its guests become. When drinking takes place at a bar, he says, the controlled nature of the establishment goes a long way in terms of keeping drinking behavior in check. But at house parties, discretion often goes out the window — a point to which college senior True can personally attest.
"People get pretty messed up at most places, but at bars there's actually a sort of limit to how much you can drink because of price, and good bartender will cut you off, whereas a good frat bro probably won't," he said.
And when it comes to this type of celebration, True says he believes young men and women are equally affected by alcohol-soaked parties.
"I think guys can at least on the whole hold more alcohol," he said. "But in terms of how drunk you're getting I'd say it's about even; you see a wrecked girl throwing up in [the] street and a bro passed out on the couch pretty equally."