Promotive and Protective Factors for Alcohol Use and Problems in Emerging Adults

Project: Research project

Project Details


Heavy drinking among emerging adults (18-25 years) is a major public health issue that has garnered substantial attention in recent years, contributing to increased efforts to develop effective prevention programs (NIAAA, 2002). Although several prevention approaches have demonstrated positive effects, the magnitude of these effects is typically quite small, suggesting that alternative or complementary approaches are needed. Most prevention programs for emerging adults seek to reduce known risk factors for heavy drinking, with relatively little attention devoted to the identification of factors that promote responsible drinking, or that protect against established risk factors like peer influence. Examples of potential promotive/protective factors include self-regulation skills, religiosity, parental influence, personal values, and engagement in school and the community. Although there is limited research on promotive/protective factors in emerging adults, there is a substantial literature on these influences in adolescents, and this knowledge base has been effectively applied to the development of novel prevention approaches. Approaches that bolster promotive and protective factors might have similar utility among emerging adults, but a comprehensive understanding of these influences in emerging adults is needed to inform the development of such programs. The proposed study seeks to develop this knowledge base through secondary analysis of six years of prospective data from a sample of emerging adults. These analyses will address the following major research aims: (1) identify major classes of promotive/protective factors against heavy drinking and related problems in emerging adults; (2) identify main effects of promotive factors and moderation of risk factors (e.g. protective factors) in the prediction of alcohol use and problems; (3) identify main effects of promotive factors and moderation of risk factors in the prediction of changes in drinking behavior and problems (trajectories) from late adolescence through emerging adulthood; and (4) develop a novel prevention program for incoming college freshman that seeks to bolster promotive/protective influences. The proposed study will advance the field in several important ways. First, this study will be among the first to simultaneously examine well established risk factors and a wide range of promotive/protective influences during this critical developmental period. In addition, this will be the first such study to utilize longitudinal data that spans multiple years (six years) from late adolescence into emerging adulthood using state of the art statistical approaches (latent-growth curve modeling). Finally, this study will include a very large and diverse sample of both college and non-college emerging adults, allowing for examination of the generalizability of the findings to emerging adults who differ with respect to gender, race/ethnicity, and student status. Finally, the knowledge gained through the conduct of this study will be directly applied to the development of a novel prevention program for first year college students that will be designed to strengthen identified promotive/protective factors in this high-risk group.
Effective start/end date9/5/138/31/16


  • HHS: National Institutes of Health (NIH): $398,877.00


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