Changes in protective behavioral strategies and alcohol use among college students

Matthew P. Martens, Jessica L. Martin, Andrew K. Littlefield, James G. Murphy, M. Dolores Cimini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


Background: Protective behavioral strategies (PBS) are specific cognitive-behavioral strategies designed to reduce alcohol consumption and resulting negative consequences. A host of studies have examined the cross-sectional relationship between such strategies and alcohol use in the high-risk population of United States college students, but prospective studies on the construct are lacking. The primary purposes of this study were to determine if PBS use prospectively predicted subsequent alcohol use/alcohol-related problems and if changes in PBS use were associated with less alcohol use and fewer problems. Methods: Data were examined from 521 heavy drinking college students (60% male, 84% White, mean age = 18.9 years). Participants completed questionnaires assessing alcohol use, alcohol-related problems, and PBS use at baseline, 6-month, and 12-month follow-ups. Results: Analysis of residualized change scores indicated that increases in some PBS across time were associated with less alcohol use and fewer alcohol-related problems at follow-up. Findings regarding the prospective relationship between PBS use and subsequent alcohol use/problems were equivocal. Discussion: Results from the study suggest that PBS may have value in alcohol-related interventions among college students. Clinicians who help clients increase their use of PBS may help those clients increase the probability of drinking less and experiencing fewer alcohol-related problems in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)504-507
Number of pages4
JournalDrug and Alcohol Dependence
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Nov 1 2011


  • Alcohol
  • College student
  • Protective behavioral strategies


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