Title

Effect of clarifying students' misperceptions associated with alcohol consumption at a Connecticut public university

Date of Completion

January 2000

Keywords

Education, Guidance and Counseling|Health Sciences, Public Health|Education, Higher

Degree

Ph.D.

Abstract

Chief student affairs officers believe that problems with alcohol use are increasing and are searching for ways to cope with them (Gallagher, Hannon, & Lingenfetter, 1994). A new technique used to prevent alcohol abuse is to clarify students' misperceptions regarding (a) their peers' consumption of alcohol (Perkins & Berkowitz, 1986a), and (b) their peers' feelings of comfort in drinking situations (Prentice & Miller, 1993). ^ The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of clarifying students' misperceptions regarding their peers' consumption of alcohol and feelings of comfort in drinking situations. Quantitative and qualitative approaches were used to determine if providing students with information would impact on their perceptions. The study also focused on whether there was a significant difference between males and females regarding their perceptions of their peers' feelings of comfort in drinking situations. ^ A posttest-only control-group experimental design was employed to investigate the efficacy of clarifying students' misperceptions. The experimental group was provided with information gleaned from the literature regarding students' misperceptions. Participants were administered a questionnaire developed for this study to determine: (a) their drinking habits (i.e., frequency and quantity), (b) how comfortable they feel in drinking situations, (c) their perceptions regarding their peers' drinking habits, and (d) their perceptions regarding how comfortable their peers feel in drinking situations. ^ The findings included: (a) students overestimated the alcohol consumed by their peers; (b) students inaccurately believed that their peers are more comfortable in drinking situations than they are themselves; (c) information appears to have clarified female students' misperceptions associated with feelings of comfort in drinking situations; and (d) there were no significant differences between males and females regarding their misperceptions of their peers' feelings of comfort in drinking situations. ^ Focus groups were used to explore in-depth students' responses regarding the intervention effort to provide understanding and insight in order to see reality from their point of view (Krueger, 1994). A theory grounded in reality (Corbin & Strauss, 1990, Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Lincoln & Guba, 1985) emerged from this study based on these results. The Preemptory Clarification Theory suggests that activities designed to clarify students' misperceptions regarding their peers' consumption of alcohol and feelings of comfort in drinking situations need to be implemented before students enter the college or university. The Alcohol Consumption Prevention Model: Clarifying Students' Misperceptions was developed to assist administrators and alcohol abuse prevention specialists address this concern. ^