Academic journal article Journal of Alcohol & Drug Education

Training First-Year College Students to Intervene in Alcohol-Related Emergencies: Addressing Bystander Beliefs and Perceived Consequences of Intervening

Academic journal article Journal of Alcohol & Drug Education

Training First-Year College Students to Intervene in Alcohol-Related Emergencies: Addressing Bystander Beliefs and Perceived Consequences of Intervening

Article excerpt

Excessive drinking among college students continues to concern investigators and educators. A recent review indicates that there is a high rate of consumption of lethal levels of alcohol among college students; roughly 13% of students surveyed nationally reported consuming ten or more drinks in one sitting during the previous two weeks (White & Hingson, 2014). Alcohol poisoning hospitalization records drawn from the National Inpatient Sample suggested roughly 59,000 college-aged young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 were hospitalized in 2008 (White, Hingson, Pan, & Yi, 2011). Unfortunately, students may not receive the help they need in an alcohol-related emergency (e.g., alcohol poisoning), and prevention efforts that target influences that prevent helping behavior are needed (Megehee, Strick & Woodside, 2012).

Bystander Effect in Alcohol-Related Emergencies

The bystander effect refers to the finding that the more people present, the lower the likelihood that any one of them will help in an emergency situation (Latane & Darley, 1970). One of the central explanations for this effect is the false belief that someone else will help (Cialdini & Goldstein, 2004). Researchers have documented numerous instances in which a person has been physically injured or assaulted while onlookers (i.e., bystanders) witnessed the events but did not provide assistance or call for help (Darley & Latane, 1968; Latane & Darley, 1970; Latane & Nida, 1981). Diffusion of responsibility describes this phenomenon: Individuals perceive that, when they are not a lone witnesses to an emergency, someone else will take responsibility for the situation (Barone, Wolgemuth, & Linder, 2007; Darley & Latane, 1968).

Bystander programs seek to address the bystander effect by instructing individuals regarding how to identify and respond to emergency situations (Latane & Darley, 1970). Latane and Darley outlined five hierarchical determinants required for a successful bystander program in an emergency and addressing each of these components in prevention programs can reduce the number of passive bystanders (i.e., individuals who did not intervene in an emergency). These steps are: 1) noticing a potentially serious situation is occurring, 2) correctly interpreting the situation as an emergency, 3) assuming responsibility, 4) deciding whether one has the knowledge and skills necessary to help and 5) making the final decision to help. Making the final decision to help requires all of the former determinants. According to Latane and Darley's model, deciding whether one has the knowledge and skills necessary to help are pre-requisites for making informed decisions about whether to help in an emergency. However, individuals may have the knowledge and perceived ability (i.e., self-efficacy) to help, but still choose not to help if the perceived benefits of helping are very low or the costs or barriers to helping are very high.

Research has suggested bystanders are more likely to intervene when trained to detect emergencies and to react appropriately (Black & Jackson, 2007). Prevention efforts have applied these findings to many different behaviors, including sexual assault, sexual harassment (Banyard, Moynihan & Plante, 2007; Coker et al., 2014; 2016; Cook-Craig et al., 2014; Kleinsasser & Jouriles, 2014; Moynihan, Banyard, Arnold, Eckstein, & Stapleton, 2012) and bullying (Olweus & Limber, 2012; Polanin, Espelage, & Pigott, 2012). Several bystander programs focusing on a variety of issues (e.g., sexual assault, eating disorders, academic dishonesty and depression) are currently in place, and these programs have been determined to have positive effects on school climate, increase students' willingness to intervene in emergency situations and decrease the targeted problem behavior (Banyard et al., 2007; Coker et al., 2014; 2016; Cook-Craig et al., 2014; Kleinsasser & Jouriles, 2014; Olweus & Limber, 2012; Polanin et al. …

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