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Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility
Avoiding a Focus on Information and on Congregating High-Risk Youth As discussed above, programs with an exclusive focus on information are ineffective at changing behavior and programs that congregate high-risk youth have had mixed and, in some cases, negative effects.
Social and Emotional Skill Development There has been limited research on alcohol prevention among preschool and elementary school children. Norm-setting approaches, discussed above, are promising for older elementary school students (Donaldson et al., 1995). In addition, there is evidence that good academic achievement and such characteristics as good school climate, cooperative learning, and strong bonds between children and school have the potential to help prevent subsequent alcohol use (Battistich et al., 1996; Hawkins et al., 1999). Research has clearly shown that the causes of early alcohol use are related to the failure to develop social and personal competencies. These competencies include the ability to make good decisions and solve problems, set and achieve goals, effectively manage emotions and stress, communicate effectively, and build relationships that support a positive peer group.
In sum, although more research on education interventions is needed, these programmatic elements can be adopted with confidence. In addition, there are some programmatic elements that have not shown desired effects (e.g., didactic information sessions and scare tactics) and in some cases produce boomerang effects. Programs that rely heavily on these elements should not be funding priorities.
Recommendation 10-2: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Education should fund only evidence-based education interventions, with priority given both to those that incorporate elements known to be effective and those that are part of comprehensive community programs.
These funding priorities should promote the key elements of prevention described in the principles of effectiveness defined by the Department of Education. Namely, funding decisions should be based on (1) demonstrated need, (2) defined behavior change goals, (3) clear objectives for how behavior change will be accomplished, and (4) the adoption of approaches with demonstrated effectiveness. As part of this approach, the Department of Education and SAMHSA list of evidence-based programs should be reviewed and revised annually. Funding should give priority to programs that have been independently demonstrated to be effective at deterring the onset of alcohol use and misuse or having an effect on other meaningful outcomes.
Regional conferences should be held for program developers, evaluators, schools currently using programs, and potential grantees to bridge the