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Alcohol-based curriculum infusion programs show promise for improving college students’ drinking perceptions and behavior

Previous research has yielded mixed results regarding the efficacy of alcohol-based curriculum infusion (CI) programs. A new study assessed two forms of CI, information-only (IO) and service learning (SL), on drinking perceptions, drinking behavior, and protective behaviors among college students. Participants (N = 129) were students from a southeastern university and were between the ages of 18 to 45. Participants were separated into two groups, IO or SL, by enrolling in one of the two sections of an introductory course in health communication. The IO group received a training session on social norms theory and the campus as well as the campus-specific normative statistics obtained from the National College Health Association’s (NCHA) American College Health Assessment (ACHA). The SL group received the same training session and additionally worked on a project that used the social norms approach and tasked students with creating original campaign messages using the campus-specific statistics. The NCHA included questions that were used to assess participants’ perceptions of their peers’ drinking behavior, their own drinking behavior, as well as protective behaviors such as eating before drinking, staying with the same group of friends when drinking and using a designated driver. The authors used a series of paired sample t tests to assess the differences between the pretest and posttest for each independent variable of all students exposed to CI. The authors also used a series of independent sample t tests to examine the difference between IO and SL. Results showed that when asked what percentage of students at their school used alcohol within the last 30 days, participants responded with a significantly higher percentage at the pretest than for the posttest (p < .001). Similarly, when asked about the number of drinks participants thought the typical student at their school had the last time they ‘‘partied’’/socialized, pretest responses were significantly higher than posttest responses (p < .001). Furthermore, there was a reduction in the number of days participants used alcohol from the pretest to posttest. Moreover, the number of alcohol drinks participants consumed the last time they ‘‘partied’’/socialized was significantly higher in the pretest than in the posttest (p < .001). With respect to perceptual and behavioral changes between IO and SL, no perceptual changes were found. In contrast, one behavioral change was found for the number of drinks consumed the last time participants ‘‘partied/socialized,’’ as SL showed a significantly larger reduction than IO (p < .001). As for the protective behaviors, there was a significant increase in protective behaviors from pretest to posttest responses (p < .001), with SL having significantly greater changes than IO (p < .05). In addition, there were statistically significant differences by gender for number of drinks consumed the last time participants ‘‘partied/socialized”, with men having a significantly greater reduction than women (p < .05).  Furthermore, the SL condition revealed a significant difference in the number of drinks consumed the last time participants ‘‘partied/socialized’’ with men having a significantly greater reduction than women (p < .05). Lastly, women demonstrated a significantly greater increase on protective behaviors in the SL condition than IO (p < .05).

Take away: Service learning was more effective than information-only curriculum infused programs for one measure of drinking behavior and for protective behaviors. Interestingly, there was a greater decrease in men’s drinking behavior and increase in women’s protective behaviors in the SL group.

Flynn, M. A., Carter, E., & Craig, C. (2017). Let’s Get Involved! The Impact of Service Learning on Drinking Perceptions, Alcohol Use, and Protective Behaviors in College Students. Journal of Drug Education, 0047237917744328.

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