Fitting in and standing out: increasing the use of alcohol protective behavioral strategies with a deviance regulation intervention

J Consult Clin Psychol. 2015 Jun;83(3):482-93. doi: 10.1037/a0038902. Epub 2015 Mar 23.


Objective: Heavy alcohol use remains a consistent public health concern on college campuses. The current pilot study used deviance regulation theory (DRT) to modify protective behavioral strategies (PBS) among college student drinkers to reduce alcohol use and alcohol-related consequences.

Method: The sample was comprised of current college student drinkers (n = 76; 53.95% female) ranging in age from 18-24 (M = 19.29, SD = 1.42). Participants were randomly assigned to receive a positively or negatively framed message. They then reported on use of alcohol PBS (via the Protective Behavioral Strategies Scale), alcohol consumption (via the Modified Daily Drinking Questionnaire), and alcohol-related consequences (via the Young Adult Alcohol Consequences Questionnaire) each week for 6 weeks.

Results and conclusions: Among drinkers with low PBS use norms, a positively, versus a negatively, framed message resulted in increased PBS use and consequently less alcohol consumption and fewer alcohol-related consequences. Among drinkers with high PBS use norms, a negatively, versus positively, framed message resulted in increased PBS use and consequently lower alcohol consumption and fewer alcohol-related consequences. However, these effects were only relevant among those who strongly believed the DRT frame. Findings suggest assigning drinkers to frames based on perceived PBS use norms and increasing belief in the frame may be 1 approach to increasing responsible drinking patterns among college students. Furthermore, the current data suggests important boundary conditions for norm-based interventions.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Alcohol Drinking / prevention & control*
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology
  • Alcohol Drinking in College / psychology*
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / prevention & control*
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / psychology
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Promotion
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pilot Projects
  • Risk Factors
  • Students / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Universities
  • Young Adult