A parent-based intervention reduces heavy episodic drinking among first-year college students

Psychol Addict Behav. 2016 Aug;30(5):523-535. doi: 10.1037/adb0000187.


A randomized controlled trial tested an interactive normative feedback-based intervention-codenamed "FITSTART"-delivered to groups of 50-100 parents of matriculating college students. The 60-min session motivated parents to alter their alcohol-related communication by correcting normative misperceptions (e.g., about how approving other parents are of student drinking) with live-generated data. Then, tips were provided on discussing drinking effectively. Incoming students (N = 331; 62.2% female) completed baseline measures prior to new-student orientation. Next, at parent orientation in June, these students' parents were assigned to either FITSTART or a control session. Finally, 4 months later, students completed a follow-up survey. Results revealed that students whose parents received FITSTART during the summer consumed less alcohol and were less likely to engage in heavy episodic drinking (HED) during the first month of college. These effects were mediated by FITSTART students' lower perceptions of their parents' approval of alcohol consumption. Further, FITSTART students who were not drinkers in high school were less likely to initiate drinking and to start experiencing negative consequences during the first month of college, where FITSTART students who had been drinkers in high school experienced fewer consequences overall and were significantly more likely to report that they did not experience any consequences whatsoever during the first month of college. Importantly, FITSTART is the first parent-based intervention to impact HED, one of the most well-studied indicators of risky drinking. Thus, interactive group normative feedback with parents is a promising approach for reducing college alcohol risk. (PsycINFO Database Record

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Alcohol Drinking in College / psychology*
  • Behavior Therapy / methods*
  • Binge Drinking / prevention & control*
  • Binge Drinking / psychology
  • Communication*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Parents*
  • Risk-Taking
  • Social Perception*
  • Students / psychology
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Universities
  • Young Adult