April 17, 2019

Social Norms in Alcohol Abuse Prevention

Alcohol Awareness Month is a public health program organized by Facing Addiction with NCADD designed to increase outreach and education regarding the dangers of alcoholism and issues related to alcohol. As Alcohol Awareness Month continues, one focus on college campuses is prevention. One prevention mechanism that has shown great efficacy is the social norms approach. Social norms are the informal rules that govern behavior in groups and societies and include things like shaking hands when meeting someone, covering a sneeze, or raising your hand to get attention in a group.

According to the National Social Norms Center, the social norms approach to behavior change "combines lessons learned from a variety of fields including social marketing, sociology, behavioral psychology and evaluation research." The social norms approach considers that college students tend to overestimate the amount of alcohol use and abuse by their peers, and this is a conception that begins at a young age. According to the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation (PDF), "Only 2% of 6th-12th graders think that seniors don't drink. In reality, 25% of 12th graders report not drinking alcohol, a healthier proportion than their younger classmates perceive."
The social norms approach:
  • focuses on positive messages about healthy behaviors and attitudes that are common to most people in a group.
  • does not use scare tactics or stigmatize an unhealthy behavior.
  • avoids moralistic messages from authorities about how the target group "should" behave. Instead, it simply presents the healthy norms already existing in the group.
  • builds on the assets already in the community, through participation by community members, and by highlighting those who make healthy choices.
The last bullet above is important from an implementation perspective. The Social Norms Approaches Using Descriptive Drinking Norms Education: A Review of the Research on Personalized Normative Feedback recommends targeting students who are at higher risk for heavier alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems. Utilizing peers in their networks, like student athletes, those with similar academic interests, or those who participate in Greek life or other social networks, to share the social norms message is an effective mechanism for prevention. For information on how to start a social norms campaign, visit the For Practitioners section of the National Social Norms Center website.
H. Wesley Perkins, Ph.D., project director of the Alcohol Education Project at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, provides many helpful tips on implementing a program in an interview posted on My Student Body. In the article, Dr. Perkins mentions four demographically different schools that have had great success over several years using the social norms approach: Hobart and William Smith Colleges, University of Virginia, Northern Illinois University, and University of Arizona. The Alcohol Education Project website also has a wealth of information, including social norms surveys, national research and resources, and a Social Norms 101 Primer.

Law Enforcement Standards and Training
Training opportunities for law enforcement personnel and campus safety officers are varied and offered from a variety of federal and state agencies, for-profit and nonprofit entities, and professional associations across the country. The mission of the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training (IADLEST) is to research, develop, and share information, ideas, and innovations that assist states in establishing effective and defensible standards for employment and training of law enforcement officers, and, in those states where dual responsibility exists, correctional personnel. IADLEST's primary focus is criminal justice standards and training and they seek to work with members of this community to find opportunities to engage with other training and standards managers to exchange ideas, seek advice, and to compare progress.
In March, the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) announced it was working with IADLEST on a new endeavor to enhance regional training efforts throughout the U.S. Their goal is to "create a series of regional training hubs that can promote, host, and evaluate training that advances community policing and public safety." These hubs will work closely with regional agencies to determine needs in community policing and then work toward addressing those needs through providing, piloting, and evaluating training courses. The training courses will include those currently in development by the COPS Office as well as COPS Office existing training portal offerings and the varied materials available via IADLEST's National Law Enforcement Academy Resource Network (NLEARN). NLEARN is a free resource for America's police and sheriffs, academy directors, managers, coordinators, and trainers and was originally funded by the National Institute of Justice. It is now funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and provides a national forum for the sharing of ideas, methods, materials and best practices among the over 700 U.S. training academies.
A series of free, live interactive 1.5-hour online workshops (PDF) addressing specific crime analysis challenges within departments are available with grant support from the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance. For those seeking additional resources, IADLEST provides different membership types and explains the benefits of membership on its website.

Professional Development Opportunities

Title: Leadership's Role in Workplace Violence Prevention
Organization: Allied Universal
Date: April 18, 2019 at 1:00 OR 4:00 PM ET
Location: Online
Fee: Free
Title: Campus Emergencies Prevention, Response, and Recovery (MGT-324)
Organization: Louisiana State University National Center for Biomedical Research & Training/Academy of Counter-Terrorist Education
Dates: May 14-15, 2019
Location: Salisbury, MD
Fee: Free
Title: Managing Implicit Bias
Organizations: Anti-Defamation League and International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators
Date: May 30, 2019 at 1:00 PM ET
Location: Online
Fee: Free

For additional trainings and events, access our searchable online calendar

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This project was supported by Grant No. 2013-MU-BX-K011 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance. The Bureau of Justice Assistance is a component of the Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Office for Victims of Crime, and the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking. Points of view or opinions in this document are those of author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the US Department of Justice.
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