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How To Reduce High-Risk College Drinking: Use Proven Strategies, Fill Research Gaps

Appendix 2
Typology: A Theoretical Framework For Alcohol Prevention Initiatives

The U.S. Department of Education’s Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention has developed a typology for classifying activities and policies designed to affect college drinking at various levels (DeJong et al., 1998). The classification schema includes four types of strategic intervention: (1) changing people’s knowledge, attitudes, and behavioral intentions regarding alcohol consumption; (2) eliminating or modifying environmental factors that contribute to the problem; (3) protecting students from the short-term consequences of alcohol consumption (“health protection” or “harm reduction” strategies); and (4) intervening with and treating students who are addicted to alcohol or otherwise show evidence of problem drinking. The representation in Table 1 captures the idea that many areas of strategic intervention can be pursued at multiple levels.

Table 1. Typology Matrix for Mapping Campus and Community Prevention Efforts

Adapted from: DeJong and Langford, 2002

In addition, research in the general population shows that using multiple interventions aimed at various levels increases the likelihood of long-term reductions in alcohol use and alcohol-related problems (Bangert-Drowns, 1988; Moskowitz, 1989; Rundall and Bruvold, 1988; Tobler, 1992; Perry and Kelder, 1992). Table 1 shows the important interrelationships among alcohol strategies. A broad-based approach reflects the finding from general population studies that risk for alcohol problems is a continuum, and targeting only alcohol-dependent individuals or those who have had problems in the past is not sufficient. In fact, the majority of alcohol-related deaths, disability, and damage is attributable to moderate drinkers who engage in occasional risky drinking, not those who are dependent on alcohol (Kreitman, 1986; Lemmens, 1995; Saunders, 1959).

Selected Examples of Complementary Interventions

Three examples illustrate how interventions from various parts of the typology can be combined to reinforce and complement one another (DeJong and Langford, 2002).

  1. Targeting knowledge, attitudes, and behavioral intentions at both the individual and group levels. At the individual level such activities may work to increase student awareness of alcohol-related problems, change individual attitudes and beliefs, and foster each student’s determination to avoid high-risk drinking and to intervene to protect other students whose alcohol use has put them in danger. Typical activities may include educational efforts during freshman orientation, alcohol awareness weeks and other special events, and curriculum infusion, where faculty members introduce alcohol-related facts and issues into regular academic courses (Ryan and DeJong, 1998). By comparison, when this type of strategic intervention focuses on the group, it often uses peer-to-peer communication. The largest such program, the BACCHUS/GAMMA Peer Education Network, trains volunteer student leaders to implement a variety of awareness and educational programs and to serve as role models for other students to emulate.
  2. Sponsoring a health protection initiative at the community, group, and individual levels. A local community could decide to establish a “safe rides” program. At the group level, fraternity and sorority chapters could vote to require members to sign a pledge not to drink and drive and to use the safe rides program instead. At the individual level, a campus-based media campaign (environmental strategy) could encourage individual students to use the new service.
  3. Conducting a policy enforcement intervention at the State, community, college, group, and individual levels. Increasing the observance and enforcement of the minimum drinking age law might involve action at the State level, such as the Alcohol Control Commission increasing the number of decoy (or “sting”) operations at local bars and restaurants. At the community level, local police could implement a protocol for notifying college officials of all alcohol-related incidents involving students. At the college itself, the campus pub could require that all alcohol servers complete a training course in responsible beverage service. At the group level, the college might require that residential groups and special event planners provide adequate controls to prevent alcohol service to underage students. Finally, at the individual level, a media campaign could publicize these new policies, the stepped-up enforcement efforts, and the consequences of violating the law.

Subcategories of Environmental Change

The Center’s typology also divides the environmental change category into five subcategories of strategic interventions: (1) offer and promote social, recreational, extracurricular, and public service options that do not include alcohol and other drugs; (2) create a social, academic, and residential environment that supports health-promoting norms; (3) limit alcohol availability both on and off campus; (4) develop and enforce campus policies and local, State, and Federal laws; and (5) restrict marketing and promotion of alcoholic beverages both on and off campus.

Each of these subcategories involves a wide range of possible strategic interventions. For example, a social norms campaign, which operates primarily at the group level, could be enhanced by an alcohol screening program that gives individualized feedback to students on their drinking compared to other students on campus (Marlatt et al., 1998). Or community leaders might foster the creation of new businesses that can provide alcohol-free recreational options for students. Simultaneously, college officials might work with local school boards to plan and conduct complementary social norms activities in secondary schools.


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Historical document
Last reviewed: 9/23/2005

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