Alcohol-Related Information in Multi-Component Interventions and College Students' Drinking Behavior

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Education-only interventions produce little change in drinking behaviors; but, multi-component prevention programs, which include alcohol information as one feature, can decrease drinking. This study examined the role of alcohol knowledge in a multi-component intervention previously found to reduce first-year female college students' alcohol consumption. Intervention and control group students completed pre and postintervention assessments of drinking behaviors, and a postintervention assessment of alcohol-knowledge. Intervention students outperformed control students on the measure of alcohol knowledge. However knowledge did not predict drinking outcomes for this group, and it was positively correlated with drinking behaviors for control students. The findings suggest that, although learning took place through the intervention, it was not the mechanism by which the intervention reduced drinking behaviors.

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College drinking continues to be a national public health concern with alcohol-related negative consequences ranging from poor academic performance to sexual assault, to vandalism, and even death (Hingson, Heeren, Winter, & Wechsler, 2005; Wechsler et al., 2002). As a result, a variety of interventions has been implemented on college campuses to prevent and reduce excessive drinking and associated negative consequences. One of the most common responses to student drinking by colleges and universities has involved education/information-based prevention methods (Darkes & Goldman, 1993; Flynn & Brown, 1991; Garvin Alcorn, & Faulkner, 1990; National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism [NIAAA], 2002; Ziemelis, 1998). This approach has stemmed from the belief that a lack of knowledge or awareness of alcohol-related health risks contributes to problem drinking; thus if students understood the risks involved in heavy drinking, they would reduce their drinking. However, education-only (or knowledge-based) interventions fail to consider the complexity of motives for drinking; and, although they are effective in changing alcohol-related attitudes and knowledge (Hingson, Berson, & Dowley, 1997), they have been found to produce little measurable change in drinking behaviors (Larimer & Cronce, 2002; 2007; Maddock, 1999).

In contrast, the NIAAA Task Force on College Drinking, which examined prevention efforts aimed at reducing excessive alcohol use on college campuses, has found much stronger evidence for the efficacy of multi-component intervention programs (NIAAA, 2002). These programs may also contain education/information components; however, unlike education-only interventions, multi-component interventions combine alcohol information with features such as expectancy challenges, skills-based techniques, normative feedback, and motivational enhancement. These interventions emphasize alcohol information in relation to situations and decisions that are highly self-relevant for intervention recipients. For instance, factual information about the effects of alcohol may be used to challenge erroneous alcohol expectancies held by many college students--expectancies that are known to predict their drinking (Christiansen, Smith, Roehling, & Goldman, 1989). In contrast to education-only interventions, multi-component interventions have been found to reduce drinking among college students (Dimeff, Baer, Kivlahan, & Marlatt, 1999; LaBrie, Huchting, Tawalbeh, et al., 2008; Marlatt et al., 1998; Baer et al., 1992; Kivlahan, Marlatt, Fromme, Coppel, & Williams, 1990).

Although it is reasonable to assume, given findings on education-only interventions, that knowledge about alcohol is not related to students' drinking, to our knowledge no research exists that directly examines this relationship in multi-component interventions. It is possible that in motivational-enhancement or skillsbased context knowledge about alcohol serves to reduce drinking behavior in a way that it does not in the absence of these additional components. …