Prevention System Cuts Rate of Teen Binge Drinking by More Than One Third
Rates of binge drinking were 37% lower among eighth-grade students in communities in seven states that used a prevention system designed to reduce drug use and delinquent behavior compared with teenagers in communities that did not use the system, according to a new University of Washington paper published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.
The findings come from the ongoing Community Youth Development Study that compares teenagers living in 12 pairs of small- to moderate-size towns in Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. It is tracking the behavior of more than 4,400 students for five years. The study is the first community-randomized trial of Communities That Care, a system developed by J. David Hawkins, PhD, and Richard Catalano, PhD, of the Social Development Research Group to lower rates of delinquency and drug use and to promote healthy behaviors.
“This study shows we can prevent adolescent risk behaviors community wide by using this system,” says Hawkins, the paper’s lead author and founding director of the research group, a part of the university’s School of Social Work.
The study found that 5.7% of the eighth-grade students in the intervention towns engaged in binge drinking in the past two weeks compared with 9% of the eighth graders in the communities not using the system. The findings are based on data collected four years after each of the intervention towns began using the system.
The researchers also asked the participants about their use of seven types of drugs during the past month. Teenagers in the intervention towns reported lower levels of use of all seven substances and the differences were statistically significant for alcohol and smokeless tobacco. There was a 48% reduction in the use of smokeless tobacco and a 23% reduction in the number of teens drinking alcohol.
Data also showed a significant difference in the number of delinquent behaviors the students engaged in over the past year. Teenagers from the intervention towns committed 31% fewer acts such as stealing something worth more than $5, purposely damaging or destroying property that didn’t belong to them, or attacking someone with the intent of causing serious harm.
“What makes this system different from other prevention efforts is that it provides community coalitions with scientifically based tools with which to make decisions based on what is important to each town,” says Hawkins. “The key is empowering each community to make scientifically grounded decisions about what program they need. That builds ownership.”
— Source: University of Washington