In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • College Students’ Willingness to Engage in Bystander Intervention at Off-Campus Parties
  • Blake R. Silver (bio) and Rick C. Jakeman (bio)

Recent research has documented the high-risk nature of off-campus parties involving college students (Vander Ven, 2011; Jakeman, Silver, & Molasso, 2014), which may involve high-risk drinking, sexual assault, violence, drug overdose, student injury, and even death (Harford, Wechsler, & Muthen, 2003; Hingson, Zha, & Weitzman, 2009; Marzell, Bavarian, Paschall, Mair, & Saltz, 2015). Colleges and universities have attempted to deal with the risks posed by off-campus parties with various efforts, including policies restricting the party environment, efforts to build community coalitions, as well as the creation of targeted education and training programs for students (DeJong & Langford, 2002; Berkowitz, 2003).

Perhaps one of the most well-known efforts to address issues of injury, violence, and sexual assault at colleges and universities is peer and bystander intervention training. Bystander intervention programs are diverse, involving a variety of strategies and foci. While some programs specifically address sexual assault (McMahon, Postmus, Warrener, & Koenick, 2014; Alegría-Flores, Raker, Pleasants, Weaver, & Weinberger, 2015), others target issues associated with environments where students consume alcohol (Johnson, 2009). These programs aim to facilitate and encourage student intervention in problematic situations, especially in environments where university officials may not be present, such as off-campus parties.

Studies have determined that bystander intervention depends on a variety of factors, perhaps most importantly, that bystanders recognize the situation as problematic and that they be willing to intervene (Latané & Darley, 1970; Hoefnagels & Zwikker, 2001). Research indicates that when individuals feel confident that they are able to assist in the situation at hand, they are more likely to engage in intervention. This confidence can stem from factors such as knowing the individual(s) involved, having been trained in the proper response(s), or viewing oneself as a responsible party in the situation (Rabow, Newcomb, Monto, & Hernandez, 1990; Thomas & Seibold, 1995; Hoefnagels & Zwikker, 2001).

With this in mind, we ask: “Does status as a party guest or host impact one’s willingness to engage in bystander intervention behaviors?” This article seeks to examine students’ willingness to engage in a variety of methods of intervention at off-campus parties. We hypothesize that party hosts will be more willing to intervene in dangerous or problematic situations than party guests, given that they likely own or inhabit the party location and are more likely than guests to know the other attendees. Further, party hosts report being aware of the legal responsibilities incurred as a result of hosting a party (Jakeman, McClure, & Silver, 2015). This combination of hosts (a) viewing themselves as responsible parties, (b) feeling empowered within their place of residence, and (c) being likely to know or be acquainted with other party attendees provides theoretical support for the hypothesis. [End Page 472]


The data were collected in the spring of 2012 as part of a study of college students’ experiences at off-campus parties. Random samples of students at eight different postsecondary institutions were surveyed, using an online instrument developed with Dillman’s (2000) recommendations for mail and Internet surveys. The instrument was modified from a similar survey administered by Molasso, Enos, and Lillie (2004) and updated based on focus-group data to reflect new phenomena and language related to partying and alcohol consumption. The participating institutions were recruited at national student affairs conferences and represented a range of institution types, sizes, and geographic locations. These included public and private institutions, research universities and liberal arts colleges, as well as secular and religiously-affiliated institutions. The sample included 10,500 students who were invited to participate in the survey, from which 2,146 responded (a 20% response rate). The respondents included Students of Color (17%) and White students (83%); as well as female (64%) and male students (36%). The majority of students (55%) were 18 to 20 years old, and 45% were 21 years of age or older.

Measures and Analysis

Respondents reported demographic data and whether they had ever attended or hosted an off-campus party. Age, gender, race, and guest/host status were coded as dummy variables. Respondents reported their age as 18 to 20 years old or 21 years or older...