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The 'social norms' approach to alcohol misuse prevention : testing transferability in a Scottish secondary school context

Martinus, T. and Melson, A. J. and Davies, J. B. and Mclaughlin, A. (2012) The 'social norms' approach to alcohol misuse prevention : testing transferability in a Scottish secondary school context. Drugs: Education, Prevention, and Policy, 19 (2). pp. 111-119. ISSN 0968-7637

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Abstract

To report baseline findings and discuss their implications for the transferability of the predominantly American 'Social Norms' approach to alcohol misuse prevention to a UK (Scottish) secondary school setting. Baseline data from a 3-year control case study are reported here, and data from the larger study will be published later. Both schools are located in the central belt of Scotland within the same local authority area. This article reports the baseline results for the intervention school only. In total, 686 pupils of mixed age (12-18 years) participated at baseline. The mean age of pupils was 14 years and 4 months (SD = 1 year and 7 months) and 54% of the sample were male. Baseline data were collected by self-reported questionnaire during class time in April 2009. Substantial misperceptions of theoretical importance were found among secondary school pupils: what peers usually drink when with friends, frequency of drinking and frequency of drunkenness. A range of attitudinal misperceptions have also been identified. Baseline data are consistent with the social norms theory, i.e. that young people tend to overestimate how much and how often their peers consume alcohol. Early indications suggest that the 'Social Norms' approach to alcohol misuse prevention may be transferable to a Scottish secondary school setting. Two main questions, however, remain unanswered: first, the extent to which findings are influenced by a theoretical artefact and second, does the approach produce behaviour change?