Community Norms, Enforcement of Minimum Legal Drinking Age Laws, Personal Beliefs and Underage Drinking: An Explanatory Model
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- Lipperman-Kreda, S., Grube, J.W. & Paschall, M.J. J Community Health (2010) 35: 249. doi:10.1007/s10900-010-9229-6
Strategies to enforce underage drinking laws are aimed at reducing youth access to alcohol from commercial and social sources and deterring its possession and use. However, little is known about the processes through which enforcement strategies may affect underage drinking. The purpose of the current study is to present and test a conceptual model that specifies possible direct and indirect relationships among adolescents’ perception of community alcohol norms, enforcement of underage drinking laws, personal beliefs (perceived parental disapproval of alcohol use, perceived alcohol availability, perceived drinking by peers, perceived harm and personal disapproval of alcohol use), and their past-30-day alcohol use. This study used data from 17,830 middle and high school students who participated in the 2007 Oregon Health Teens Survey. Structural equations modeling indicated that perceived community disapproval of adolescents’ alcohol use was directly and positively related to perceived local police enforcement of underage drinking laws. In addition, adolescents’ personal beliefs appeared to mediate the relationship between perceived enforcement of underage drinking laws and past-30-day alcohol use. Enforcement of underage drinking laws appeared to partially mediate the relationship between perceived community disapproval and personal beliefs related to alcohol use. Results of this study suggests that environmental prevention efforts to reduce underage drinking should target adults’ attitudes and community norms about underage drinking as well as the beliefs of youth themselves.