This research evaluated the impact of the Positive Community Norms (PCN) approach on (a) correcting misperceptions of norms of peer alcohol use and (b) reducing prevalence of monthly alcohol use among a sample of high-school students. A 5-year intervention (consisting of a mix of strategies centered around promoting actual norms related to alcohol use) was implemented by community coalitions in 11 school districts selected by the Minnesota Department of Human Services. Yearly assessments of teen substance abuse norms were conducted in each community, as well as surveys of parents and adults in the community. In the absence of control communities, national data from Monitoring the Future (MTF) (Miech et al. in Monitoring the future national survey results on drug use, 1975–2017: secondary school students, vol I [Monograph]. Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, 2018) were utilized as a comparison condition. At the end of the 5 years, 8th- and 10th-grade students in the PCN intervention communities were more likely to report never using alcohol than students in the MTF Survey comparison group. This finding was also true for 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-grade students combined. This research provides evidence for utilizing the PCN approach to effectively correct misperceptions of norms and integrate strategies to reduce and prevent teen alcohol use at community population levels.
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Funding for this project was provided by the Minnesota Department of Human Services, Behavioral Health Division. This manuscript was written in conjunction with the special issue ‘Social Norms and Violence Against Children and Youth.’
Conflict of interest
The lead author (Jeffrey W. Linkenbach) discloses potential conflict of financial interest because his business, The Montana Institute, LLC was funded by Minnesota Department of Human Services to provide training and consultation as part of this study.
This study used a passive consent protocol. Parents and guardians of the student subject pool were provided detailed information about the survey through their participating public schools’ administration and offered the opportunity to remove their child(ren) from participation.
Research Involving Human Participants and/or Animals
The survey protocol and instrument used in this project were approved by an Institutional Review Board as being appropriate for human subjects research. The survey was voluntary and the student subject could not be compelled to take the survey, were not be provided an incentive for taking the survey, and were not penalized for opting out of the survey. Students took the survey in groups and were reminded not to put their name on the survey. The surveys were placed in envelopes and not reviewed by any local personnel. All reports only provided summary information; information was never provided by ethnicity. Individual responses were never made available to school or local personnel.
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Linkenbach, J.W., Bengtson, P.L., Brandon, J.M. et al. Reduction of Youth Monthly Alcohol Use Using the Positive Community Norms Approach. Child Adolesc Soc Work J 38, 1–11 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10560-020-00666-4
- Positive community norms
- Youth alcohol prevention
- Social norms
- Media campaign