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Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility
munity activities and outreach, and environmental strategies that reduced the availability of alcohol to youth, is regarded as a highly effective program (Perry et al, 1996; Williams and Perry, 1998). These interventions use a community component involving family and other community leaders (e.g., teachers, counselors) or may strive to change the school or community environment. Communities should adopt prevention interventions that include school, family, and community components.
Sufficient in Dose and Follow-Up Significant developmental changes occur during adolescence. For educational interventions to be effective, they must be delivered throughout this period. Educational and family programs usually focus most heavily on the first part of adolescence. The increased use of boosters and multiyear programs should be encouraged. Community interventions also tend to focus on discrete portions of the adolescent years. However, a combined and consistently implemented approach to prevention has been shown to yield stronger results.
Norms That Support Nonuse Extensive research demonstrates that establishing norms that support nonuse is a key component of approaches to prevent alcohol use and misuse. During adolescence, it is common for youth who engage in inappropriate drinking behaviors to grossly overestimate the prevalence and acceptability of alcohol use among peers. As a result, these young people choose to use alcohol in a manner that matches these misperceived norms. Establishing beliefs in conventional norms among students—or, in other words, making young people’s estimates about their peers’ alcohol use more realistic—has significant potential to reduce alcohol use among young people. For example, the normative education element in interventions like the Adolescent Alcohol Prevention Trials significantly deterred use of alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana among middle and high school students (Hansen and Graham, 1991).
Parental Monitoring and Supervision Parents are a powerful source of influence on their children, and, using the right practices, parents can significantly decrease the likelihood that their children will drink. Research on prevention with families consistently demonstrates that parental monitoring of children—including monitoring their free time and time with friends and actively supervising them by being present during youth activities—is highly effective as a strategy for preventing the onset of alcohol use and misuse (Dusenbury, 2000; Vicary et al., 2000). Monitoring can make gaining access to alcohol more difficult and can help to reinforce family rules and policies prohibiting the use of alcohol. Programs can provide parents with skills and motivation for actively monitoring and supervising their children.