Can Communities Assess Support for Preventing Adolescent Alcohol and Other Drug Use? Reliability and Validity of a Community Assessment Inventory

Article excerpt

Can Communities Assess Support for Preventing Adolescent Alcohol and Other Drug Use? Reliability and Validity of a Community Assessment Inventory*

This study examines the reliability and validity of the Youth Support Inventory, a tool designed for community coalitions to assess the availability of local resources and supports that previous research indicates are important for preventing adolescent alcohol and other drug use. Citizen members in 17 community coalitions completed the inventory. In tests of validity, a higher score (i.e., more community support) was associated with less adolescent alcohol use. In tests of reliability, the inventory was reduced from 55 to 40 items (a = .71). Of the prevention strategies identified by the coalition, 94% addressed resources the local assessment indicated were not extensively available in the community.

Key Words: alcohol use, community assessment, prevention, validity.

Across America, community coalitions have been created to reduce risky behaviors among youth, leading scholars to label the 1990s the "decade of community coalitions" (Lerner & Miller, 1993, p. 348). Community-based coalitions are popular because providing opportunities for citizen participation has proven effective for addressing a number of public issues. For example, collaborative efforts among community residents and representatives of nonprofit organizations, advocacy groups, government agencies, and universities have been used to prevent youth risk behaviors, particularly alcohol and other drug use (Hawkins, Catalano, & Miller 1992; Mansergh, Rohrbach, Montgomery, Pentz, & Johnson, 1996).

This proliferation in community coalitions addressing youth alcohol and other drug use occurred in part because of the prevalence of substance use. National surveys show adolescent alcohol use ranges from 28% of eighth graders to 57% of 12th graders. Overall, 51% of high school students report consuming at least one alcoholic drink in the last 30 days (Centers for Disease Control [CDC], 1996; Johnston, O'Malley, & Bachman, 1995). In addition, nearly one third of teenagers believe that drugs are the most important problem they face, more so than social pressures or family problems (Califano & Booth, 1998).

Adolescent alcohol use is correlated with other risky behaviors, such as driving while intoxicated and sexual activity (Bogenschneider, Wu, Raffaelli, & Tsay, 1998; Hawkins, Catalano, & Miller, 1992; Zabin, Hardy, Smith, & Hirsch, 1986). In 1996, for example, 36% of motor vehicle fatalities among 15- to 20year-olds were alcohol related (CDC, 1997). Among teens who were sexually active, rates of substance use were higher than among their nonsexually active peers, even after controlling for age, race, and gender (Zabin et al., 1986). Moreover, one fourth of adolescents reported that they had used alcohol or other drugs during their last sexual experience (CDC, 1996). Consequently, comprehensive community-based prevention programs designed to reduce adolescent substance use have the potential to decrease other risky behaviors as well.

The explosion of community coalitions (Butterfoss, Goodman, Wandersman, 1996; Lerner & Miller, 1993; Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 1993) coupled with the evidence that coalitions can effectively prevent risky adolescent behaviors (Johnson, Hansen, & Pentz, 1986; Manger, Hawkins, Haggerty, & Catalano, 1992; Pentz et al., 1989) has prompted the development of community inventories to help coalitions assess how supportive the community is in promoting positive youth development and preventing risky behaviors. These tools are a fundamental component of successful community action because they can help (a) promote the development of research-based community prevention strategies, and (b) identify which strategies are most needed locally.

The Youth Support Inventory for Adolescent Alcohol and Other Drug Use (YSI) was created as a component of the Wisconsin Youth Futures program (see Bogenschneider, 1996, for an overview) and contains items empirically related to adolescent alcohol use. …