Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

High School Students' Perceptions of Alcohol Prevention Programs

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

High School Students' Perceptions of Alcohol Prevention Programs

Article excerpt

Students' experiences, role models, and their environment form many of the ideas, attitudes, and expectations of youth regarding the use of alcohol (The National Alcohol Strategy Working Group, 2007). In frameworks, the Canadian Government has identified health promotion, prevention, and education programs for youth as priorities to reduce the harms associated with youth alcohol use (Health Canada, 2005; The National Alcohol Strategy Working Group, 2007). Moreover, these frameworks advocate a coordinated approach among agencies to meet the challenges associated with youth alcohol use.

Mass-media campaigns and school-based curricula are the main vehicles in use for conveying health and safety information regarding alcohol use to youth. Health Canada (2008) reported that despite preventative efforts, youth are using alcohol at hazardous rates and "had higher rates than the general population of reported lifetime harms in the past year as a result of their own drinking" (p. 5). Alcohol use tends to start in adolescence and is the most frequently used substance by Canadian youth (Health Canada, 2005). Motor vehicular accidents continue to be the number one cause of death in youth (Saskatchewan Government Insurance, 2008). Furthermore, the early use of alcohol is associated with development of dependence and of various types of harm related with its use (DeWit, Adlaf, Offord, & Ogborne, 2000; Poulin & Elliot, 2007).

A systematic review of the literature by McBride (2003) revealed a consensus that effective school drug education programs "should be based on the needs and be relevant to the young people who are likely to participate" in them (p. 734). Trends in, and consequences of, alcohol use can change quickly and dramatically during the teenage years due to the developmental significance of the pivotal adolescent years and because they are the targets of continuous marketing of psychoactive substances including alcohol. Tracking patterns of use is essential to keep the public and educators informed regarding use of alcohol and its consequences. Knowledge related to "the extent of alcohol use and the consequent harms can help greatly in determining the aims, timing and key messages for a school district" (Roberts, 2010, p. 10). Furthermore, information derived directly from students is central in providing useful information on prevalence rates. Three Canadian provinces/territories--Saskatchewan, Quebec, and Nunavut--lack data regarding the use of alcohol among youth (i.e., prevalence rates) and do not have a process for systematic collection and recording of data on a regular basis (Clark, 2009).

The purpose of this study was to explore the perceptions of alcohol prevention programming for Grade 11 students in selected high school settings and to ascertain the rates of alcohol use among these students. In order to fully understand the students' perceptions, this research was directed in an effort to identify the intentions of the policies, the processes of implementation, and the students' experiences of the programs. Guba's Domains Model (1985) provided a framework for examining students' perceptions of alcohol prevention programs. Guba (1985) stated that "the experience is heavily mediated by context (e.g., by the local culture; by the reactions and expectations of peers; by the motivation of the implementers and the size of their workload) and the actual availability of authorized resources" (p. 11). He went on to say that "there are at least three levels at which the term policy has meaning" (Guba, 1985, p. 11): policy-in-intent, policy-in-implementation, and policy-in-experience. Furthermore, he said, "It is never policy that is tested but only some treatment or program undertaken in the name of the policy, together with the experience of that treatment or program by the target group and other affected stakeholders" (p. 11). The students, themselves, should be the main source of data collection when exploring programs for alcohol prevention since they are the target group and "it is the young that are most knowledgeable about their own behavior" (World Health Organization, 1993, p. …

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