Academic journal article Alcohol Research

Engaging Communities to Prevent Underage Drinking

Academic journal article Alcohol Research

Engaging Communities to Prevent Underage Drinking

Article excerpt

Research has identified multiple risk factors that increase the likelihood of alcohol use among youth and young adults. These conditions or experiences include individual characteristics (e.g., displaying aggression at a young age or believing that alcohol use is not harmful), peer influences (e.g., having friends who use alcohol or who believe that alcohol use is acceptable), family experiences (e.g., heavy alcohol use by parents or siblings, or inadequate parental supervision), school factors (e.g., academic failure, or having a low commitment to school or education), and neighborhood experiences (e.g., availability of alcohol to youth, or community norms that are permissive of youth alcohol use) (Durlak 1998; Hawkins et al. 1992; Pentz 1998). Protective or promotive factors that ameliorate the negative influences of risk factors or directly reduce the likelihood of alcohol use among young people also exist in all areas of people's lives. They include, for example, being attached to others who do not abuse alcohol, having a resilient temperament, or holding clear standards against the use of alcohol before one is of legal age (Pollard et al. 1999; Werner 1993).

Prevention efforts aimed at reducing rates of alcohol use typically do so by seeking to minimize the target population's exposure to harmful risk factors and/or enhance protective/promotive factors (Coie et al. 1993; Munoz et al. 1996). Focusing prevention efforts on youth offers particularly great potential, because the early onset of drinking has been associated with an increased likelihood of alcohol dependence later in life (Hingson et al. 2006). Although many prevention efforts have been found to reduce tobacco, alcohol, and other drug use (Hawkins et al. 1995; National Research Council and Institute of Medicine 2009; Spoth et al. 2008), these strategies often are limited by addressing risk and protective factors in just one socialization domain. Thus, most of these efforts focus only on the most direct (i.e., proximal) causes of alcohol use, such as the availability of alcohol or peer or family influences, rather than targeting the complex contexts in which youth and young adults live. This narrow focus may reduce the overall impact and long-term effectiveness of alcohol-abuse prevention strategies, both because multiple factors affect alcohol use and because the effectiveness of any intervention likely is compromised if the environment in which people live is unfavorable to or does not support intervention goals and activities (Flay 2000; Wagenaar and Perry 1994).

One at least equally promising strategy for affecting rates of alcohol use, abuse, and dependence (not just among youth and young adults) centers on community-based efforts. Such approaches rely on multiple strategies intended to change a variety of factors that place individuals at risk for engaging in alcohol misuse (Pentz 1998; Wandersman and Florin 2003). Most of these efforts seek to alter not only proximal influences, but also the long-term, structural, and environmental influences associated with alcohol abuse and dependence, which increases their potential to make a significant and long-lasting impact (Wagenaar et al. 1994). By saturating the environment with prevention strategies and messages, community-based efforts aim to reach many individuals, which may allow them to achieve population-level reductions in alcohol misuse.

Another potential advantage of community-based strategies is their reliance on members of the local community to plan, implement, and monitor prevention activities, usually via coalitions made up of stakeholders from diverse organizations and backgrounds. By actively involving the community in the prevention effort, these approaches may enhance community buy-in for prevention activities and may help to ensure that services are a good fit with local needs, resources, and norms (Hawkins et al. 2002; Stevenson and Mitchell, 2003; Wandersman et al. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.