Brief Online Interventions Targeting Risk and Protective Factors for Increased and Problematic Alcohol Use Among American College Students Studying Abroad

Published in: Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, [Epub January 2017], doi:10.1037/adb0000242

Posted on RAND.org on March 14, 2017

by Eric R. Pedersen, Clayton Neighbors, David C. Atkins, Christine Lee, Mary E. Larimer

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Research documents increased and problematic alcohol use during study abroad experiences for college students yet no research documents effective preventive programs with these students. The present randomized controlled trial was designed to prevent increased and problematic alcohol use abroad by correcting misperceptions of peer drinking norms abroad and by promoting positive and healthy adjustment into the host culture (i.e., sojourner adjustment) through brief online personalized feedback interventions. A sample of 343 study abroad college students was randomly assigned to 1 of 4 conditions including a personalized normative feedback intervention (PNF), a sojourner adjustment feedback intervention (SAF), a combined PNF + SAF intervention, and an assessment-only control condition. Generalized estimated equation analyses accounting for baseline drinking and consequences revealed an intervention effect for PNF that was mitigated by baseline drinking level, such that PNF was best for those with lighter baseline drinking, but heavier baseline drinkers receiving PNF alone or PNF + SAF drank comparatively similar or more heavily abroad to those in the control condition. However, PNF + SAF condition participants with greater baseline levels of consequences reported comparatively less consequences abroad than their control participants. Thus, PNF alone may be helpful for lighter drinkers at predeparture and the addition of SAF to PNF may help prevent consequences abroad for those reporting more consequences prior to departure abroad. This research represents an important first step in designing and implementing efficacious interventions with at-risk study abroad college students, for which no current empirically based programs exist.

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