Integration of Social Influence Interventions to Reduce Risky Drinking Among College Students



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The prevalence of alcohol misuse among college students and its related consequences has led to a search to understand the unique processes specific to this population and thus prevent negative outcomes. Because college drinking is so commonly done socially, the effects of social influence on undergraduate alcohol consumption, as well as the incorporation of social influence in drinking interventions, have been widely researched. Social influence concepts and theories have been used to understand and design alcohol misuse interventions. However, the sources of social influence in most college student alcohol interventions have focused on distal referent groups, rather than more concrete sources of social influences, like specific individuals in one’s social network in actual drinking contexts. The current study evaluated a brief alcohol intervention for college students that integrated elements of event-specific feedback and social network interventions to focus on more concrete sources of social influence on student drinking. The current intervention provided feedback on one’s specific drinking occasions, including who was present or absent within one’s close network, the number of drinks consumed, consequences experienced, and protective behavioral strategies used. Furthermore, the study evaluated whether this intervention works better for those who received more feedback information, based on those who had more events with alcohol-related consequences and had more peers present during those events. College students (n = 207) identified ten individuals whom they drank with and were close to and completed measures of their most recent drinking events and their typical drinking behavior. Participants were then randomized to receive either (1) the social context feedback on their recent drinking events, including who was there, the negative consequences they experienced, and the protective behavioral strategies they used, or (2) the attention-control feedback on their recent exams, which consisted of their studying behaviors and who they studied with. Participants then completed a measure of their drinking intentions. One month after completing baseline materials, participants completed an online follow-up survey to determine changes in drinking behaviors. Results indicated that those who received the social context feedback intended to consume fewer drinks over the next month relative to control (b = -0.214, p = 0.038), and that they also reported consuming fewer drinks at the one-month follow-up (b = -0.344, p = 0.028). However, receiving more feedback did not strengthen the effects of the intervention. The findings provide support for the social influence-based intervention, which shifted the focus from general, abstract others and typical drinking behavior to specific individuals the participants know and personally risky drinking events.



Social networks, Brief interventions, Alcohol, College students