Objectives: We examined the independent and combined influence of major risk and protective factors on youths' alcohol use.
Methods: Five large data sets provided similar measures of alcohol use and risk or protective factors. We carried out analyses within each data set, separately for boys and girls in 8th and 10th grades. We included interaction and curvilinear predictive terms in final models if results were robust across data sets. We combined results using meta-analytic techniques.
Results: Individual, family, and peer risk factors and a community protective factor moderately predicted youths' alcohol use. Family and school protective factors did not predict alcohol use when combined with other factors. Youths' antisocial attitudes were more strongly associated with alcohol use for those also reporting higher levels of peer or community risk. For certain risk factors, the association with alcohol use varied across different risk levels.
Conclusions: Efforts toward reducing youths' alcohol use should be based on robust estimates of the relative influence of risk and protective factors across adolescent environment domains. Public health advocates should focus on context (e.g., community factors) as a strategy for curbing underage alcohol use.