Schools are an important setting for interventions aimed at preventing alcohol use and abuse among adolescents. A range of school-based interventions have been developed to prevent or delay the onset of alcohol use, most of which are targeted to middle-school students. Most of these interventions seek to reduce risk factors for alcohol use at the individual level, whereas other interventions also address social and/or environmental risk factors. Not all interventions that have been developed and implemented have been found to be effective. In-depth analyses have indicated that to be most effective, interventions should be theory driven, address social norms around alcohol use, build personal and social skills helping students resist pressure to use alcohol, involve interactive teaching approaches, use peer leaders, integrate other segments of the population into the program, be delivered over several sessions and years, provide training and support to facilitators, and be culturally and developmentally appropriate. Additional research is needed to develop interventions for elementary-school and high-school students and for special populations.

Regulations on the availability of alcohol have been used to moderate alcohol problems in communities throughout the world for thousands of years. In the latter half of the 20th century, quantitative studies of the effects of these regulations on drinking and related problems began in earnest as public health practitioners began to recognize the full extent of the harmful consequences related to drinking. This article briefly outlines the history of this work over four areas, focusing on the minimum legal drinking age, the privatization of alcohol control systems, outlet densities, and hours and days of sale. Some historical background is provided to emphasize the theoretical and empirical roots of this work and to highlight the substantial progress that has been made in each area. In general, this assessment suggests that higher minimum legal drinking ages, greater monopoly controls over alcohol sales, lower outlet numbers and reduced outlet densities, and limited hours and days of sale can effectively reduce alcohol sales, use, and problems. There are, however, substantial gaps in the research literature and a near absence of the quantitative theoretical work needed to direct alcohol-control efforts. Local community responses to alcohol policies are complex and heterogeneous, sometimes reinforcing and sometimes mitigating the effects of availability regulations. Quantitative models of policy effects are essential to accelerate progress toward the formulation and testing of optimal control strategies for the reduction of alcohol problems.

AIMS: Alcohol misuse by young people causes significant health and social harm, including death and disability. Therefore, prevention of youth alcohol misuse is a policy aim in many countries. Our aim was to examine the effectiveness of (1) school-based, (2) family-based and (3) multi-component universal alcohol misuse prevention programmes in children and adolescents.

METHODS: Three Cochrane systematic reviews were performed: searches in MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO, Project CORK and the Cochrane Register of Controlled Trials up to July 2010, including randomised trials evaluating universal alcohol misuse prevention programmes in school, family or multiple settings in youths aged 18 years or younger. Two independent reviewers identified eligible studies and any discrepancies were resolved via discussion.

RESULTS: A total of 85 trials were included in the reviews of school (n = 53), family (n = 12) and multi-component (n = 20) programmes. Meta-analysis was not performed due to study heterogeneity. Most studies were conducted in North America. Risk of bias assessment revealed problems related to inappropriate unit of analysis, moderate to high attrition, selective outcome reporting and potential confounding. Certain generic psychosocial and life skills school-based programmes were effective in reducing alcohol use in youth. Most family-based programmes were effective. There was insufficient evidence to conclude that multiple interventions provided additional benefit over single interventions.

CONCLUSIONS: In these Cochrane reviews, some school, family or multi-component prevention programmes were shown to be effective in reducing alcohol misuse in youths. However, these results warrant a cautious interpretation, since bias and/or contextual factors may have affected the trial results. Further research should replicate the most promising studies identified in these reviews and pay particular attention to content and context factors through rigorous evaluation.

BACKGROUND: Some years ago Australian anthropologist David Moore criticised the predominant form of understanding youth alcohol consumption for residing with biomedical approaches that individualise and ultimately stigmatise drinking behaviour and 'ignore' the social context of consumption. Of interest here is the ongoing insufficient integration of alternative approaches to understanding young people's drinking.

METHODS: This paper presents theoretically informed qualitative research that investigates why young Australian females (aged 14-17) drink and how social and cultural context form the basis, rather than the periphery, of their drinking experience.

RESULTS: We demonstrate the utility of Pierre Bourdieu's sociological framework for delving beyond the dichotomy of young people's drinking decisions as either a determination of their cultural environment or the singular result of a rational individual's independent decision-making. The paper is presented in two parts. First, we provide the interpretation, or 'practise', of Bourdieu's concepts through an outline and application of his complex theoretical constructs. Specifically, the concept of symbolic capital (or social power) is applied. Second, our explication of Bourdieu's 'practice', or epistemological contributions, offers a methodologically grounded example to other researchers seeking to attain more complete understandings of the social processes underpinning youth alcohol consumption.

CONCLUSION: A sociological approach to exploring the complex relationship between drinking and contextual social factors amongst young Australian females is an unchartered area of enquiry. We contribute new theoretically supported insights to create a more complete picture of young females' drinking behaviours.

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