Academic journal article Alcohol Research: Current Reviews

Tracking the When, Where, and with Whom of Alcohol Use: Integrating Ecological Momentary Assessment and Geospatial Data to Examine Risk for Alcohol-Related Problems

Academic journal article Alcohol Research: Current Reviews

Tracking the When, Where, and with Whom of Alcohol Use: Integrating Ecological Momentary Assessment and Geospatial Data to Examine Risk for Alcohol-Related Problems

Article excerpt

The study of drinking contexts has become an increasingly fertile area of research in prevention science. Each drinking event has a series of contextual characteristics unique to that event. Where (location), when (the sequence of events), with whom (social characteristics), and under what circumstances (situation characteristics) a person drinks affect the types of alcohol-related consequences a person experiences. Taken together, these contextual characteristics may exacerbate or buffer an individual from experiencing alcohol-related problems. Through the identification of high-risk contexts, a selective prevention approach (Institute of Medicine and National Research Council 2009) can be applied by (1) targeting prevention efforts to contexts that place most drinkers at risk, and (2) tailoring prevention efforts to each context for related outcomes. However, for these efforts to be successful, the various characteristics of drinking contexts that initiate and reinforce drinking problems must be identified and understood.

Consider the following scenarios: After the senior prom, a girl goes to her boyfriend's house for the night with a group of friends and their dates. The parents, who are hosting the party, set up the party but stay in their room to keep out of the way and let the teens enjoy themselves. The teens all think that the parents do not care if anyone drinks. Some already have consumed alcohol at the prom, and others invite along additional friends they know, some of whom are 21 years old. In another scenario, after the prom, another girl goes to the official "after party" hosted by the school at a local bowling alley. Because this party is hosted by the school, several parent chaperones are present. Some of these teens also have consumed alcohol at the prom, but they do not expect that they will be able to do so at the school-sponsored after party. In each scenario, the drinking context either provides specific risks for young people or buffers them from those risks. In the first example, the young people are at risk for drunkenness and other related problems, such as risky sex, arguments, and fights. In the second example, alcohol-related consequences are minimized, because contexts for both drinking and problems are constrained.

Recent research has found that different drinking contexts present unique risks for several social problems. Drinking at fraternity and sorority houses or events is related to more drinking-related problems among college students (Gruenewald and Ponicki 2009), including alcohol-related sexual intercourse (Bersamin et al. 2012). Parents who drink more frequently at bars, at home, or at parties use physical abuse more often, whereas parents who drink more often at restaurants use physical abuse less often (Freisthler and Gruenewald 2013). Drinking at bars is also related to a 12 percent increase in the likelihood of physically abusing a child, compared with only 1 percent for drinking at home or at parties (Freisthler and Gruenewald 2013). Males in relationships who drink more often at parties in other people's homes seem to be more likely to commit intimate partner violence (IPV) (Mair et al. 2013) than their counterparts who drink less often at parties. Among young people, half of all episodes of intoxication occur in private homes as opposed to licensed premises or school events (Storvoll et al. 2010), and drinking and driving is more often when drinking occurs away from home (Tin et al. 2008; Walker et al. 2005). To tailor effective prevention strategies that respond effectively to contextual risk factors, it is necessary to gain insight into how location and temporal, social, and situation characteristics operate independently and conjointly to affect drinking and drinking-related outcomes. Ultimately, this information may result in police increasing patrols of risky drinking contexts (e.g., parking lots during a football game); parents being educated about high-risk settings; and specialized prevention materials, resources, and services provided at relevant locations. …

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