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Title: The social norms approach to alcohol misuse prevention : studies of intervention and methodology among Scottish secondary school pupils and university students
Author: Melson, Ambrose John
ISNI:       0000 0004 2744 017X
Awarding Body: University of Strathclyde
Current Institution: University of Strathclyde
Date of Award: 2012
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Early intervention in schools to tackle alcohol problems is a widespread practice, despite patchy evidence of effectiveness. The 'Social norms' approach emerges from studies showing overestimation of 'others' consumption/approval of alcohol use amongst students. To correct such misperceptions of drinking norms, 'true' norms are fed-back in order to modify perceptions, thus relieving possible social pressure to conform to the misperceived norms. This thesis comprises five studies addressing outstanding concerns with the social norms approach. Study One evaluated a two-year social norms intervention in two Scottish secondary schools and reported little effect of the intervention on pupils' alcohol-related perceptions, but several positive behavioural outcomes relative to controls. The failure to modify perceptions means positive behavioural outcomes could not be attributed to distinctive elements of a social norms intervention. However methodological and design limitations mean this m ay indicate absence of good evidence rather than good evidence of ineffectiveness. Studies Two through Five examined a central tenet of social norms theory - the overestimation of peer norms. Thus, in Study Two, secondary pupils reported more extreme alcohol-related perceptions amongst peers when questioned conjointly on their own and peers' behaviour and attitudes, versus the peer target in isolation. Study Three sought to replicate existing research and found that University of Strathclyde students reported a range of other target groups as drinking more heavily than themselves, paving the way for two further, more focussed, studies. In Study Four, heavier consumption among students recruited in a bar environment was found compared to students in a setting remote from this environment, challenging the usual self-other discrepancy effect. In Study Five, university students' responses were also found to be sensitive to questionnaire structure. These findings demonstrate the implications of the 'where' (environmental context and setting) and the 'how' (questionnaire structure) of data collection within social norms paradigms with each shown to play an important role in the nature of the data obtained. These findings ask important questions of social norms theory and interventions.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available