Celebratory Drinking Among College Students: Facilitating Prevention with Social Norms Marketing and Curriculum Infusion in a Multidisciplinary Environment

Foster, Holly, Education - Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Pusser, Brian, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Bass, Ellen, Systems Information and Engineering, University of Virginia
Keller, Adrienne, Public Health Sciences, University of Virginia
Inkelas, Karen, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

High-risk drinking among college students remains an issue despite ever increasing prevention programs. At the University of Virginia, social norms marketing campaigns have been used to attempt to reduce participation in the Fourth-Year Fifth, a university specific high-risk drinking event; however, there has been relatively little change in participation levels over time. The first study in this dissertation evaluated who participates, perceptions about participation, and motivations for participation in the Fourth-Year Fifth. This information provided some understanding as to why previous prevention efforts had not been successful at reducing participation. A survey of 1,335 fourth-year students revealed that many students were either underestimating participation or overall perceptions regarding participation were correct. Given that social norms marketing is effective when a misperception exists where students overestimate participation, a social norms marketing campaign is not indicated in this case. Additionally, the practice is specific to one subgroup of the total college population, again suggesting population-based social norms marketing is not a viable prevention intervention.

Based on the results of the first study, a second study was created to evaluate curriculum infusion as an alternative to a social norms marketing intervention. This study assessed infusing health promotion content into a Systems Information and Engineering course and included two class sections. One section received a case study which included university specific Fourth-Year Fifth data, while the other section received a case study which included non-university specific distracted driving data. Both sections were instructed to review and analyze the data. Both sections were then surveyed to determine if infusing the curriculum with social and health promotion content affected students’ self-reported behavior associated with high-risk drinking or increased their knowledge of health promotion information. Further, the sections were surveyed to determine if infusing social and health promotion content into academic curriculum increased student engagement in the material. The results indicated that students in both sections reported learning something new and talking with friends about the case. Both groups also indicated an increased ability in confidence in the overall learning objectives of the class. Further, both groups indicated the case was personally relevant and more interesting than other cases in the course. While the results were not significant in most areas, a post-hoc analysis of the results indicates a larger sample size is needed to achieve .80 power in all outcome analyses. While curriculum infusion is not significantly effective at changing self-reported behavior associated with high-risk drinking, the use of health promotion-infused case studies does increase overall interest, learning and student engagement.

These studies measured two types of social norms prevention programs. The results revealed that although social norms marketing is successful in some cases, there are instances where alternative prevention programs are indicated. The results also showed that integrated case study curriculum can be effective for increasing student learning and engagement. This finding warrants further study on curriculum infusion as a method of educating students on both academic and health promotion content. However, the findings do not indicate that either social norms marketing or curriculum infusion are effective at changing a specific high-risk behavior.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
social norms, curriculum infusion, celebratory drinking; substance abuse prevention
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date: