Brief online interventions targeting risk and protective factors for increased and problematic alcohol use among American college students studying abroad
Pedersen, Eric R.
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Research documents increased and problematic alcohol use during study abroad experiences for college students. In addition, study abroad students may be a self-selecting subgroup of students who drink at greater rates and experience more consequences than non-study abroad students both prior to and after trips. Despite increasing numbers of students studying abroad each year and growing concerns about this high-risk event, there is limited research available documenting efficacious preventive programs with these students. Previous work suggests perceptions of study abroad peer drinking and host country native adult drinking are risk factors for increased alcohol use while abroad, while components related to positive Sojourner Adjustment (i.e., the process of positive and healthy adjustment among individuals establishing temporary residencies in new cultures) may protect against problematic use. Employing a 2 x 2 longitudinal randomized intervention design with an assessment only control condition, the present study sought to prevent increased and problematic alcohol use by correcting misperceptions of study abroad student and host country native drinking norms and by promoting positive and healthy adjustment into the host culture through brief online personalized feedback interventions. A sample of 343 study abroad students were randomly assigned to one of four conditions including a personalized normative feedback intervention (PNF) only, a Sojourner Adjustment feedback intervention (SAF), a combined PNF + SAF intervention, and an assessment only control condition. Multilevel regression analyses revealed that, contrary to hypotheses, participants in the SAF intervention condition increased their drinking during the first month abroad compared to control. This effect was mediated by decreases in perceived abstinence rates. In contrast, SAF and PNF participants reported reduced alcohol-related consequences compared to control participants during the last month abroad. Participants who studied in Europe and who reported higher pre-departure social reasons for drinking appeared to benefit most from the PNF intervention during the last month abroad. The interventions including SAF content appeared to work best for participants with higher coping reasons for drinking. This research represents an important first step in designing and implementing efficacious interventions with at-risk study abroad college students using online methodologies with normative information and Sojourner Adjustment content.
- Psychology