Alcohol use is prevalent among college students, and some are at risk for developing alcohol use disorders. However, many students report using alcohol without experiencing negative consequences, which may be due, in part, to use of protective behavioral strategies (PBS). Although evidence of PBS effectiveness on reducing alcohol use and negative consequences is mixed, gender/sex differences in PBS use remain a consistent finding. To further explore these associations, we used item response theory models and assessed item-level PBS correlations with alcohol outcomes separately for female and males. Results indicated specific items exhibited significant sex differences in the amount of information and location of information across the latent trait. Some items provided little information across females and males, suggesting these items can be removed. All PBS items significantly associated with alcohol outcomes were negative in direction, but effects ranged from small to large in magnitude. These findings suggest strategies that are effective against alcohol-related harms vary across females and males, and PBS measurement may be improved by establishing sex-specific norms and analyzing females and males separately when studying PBS. Future research priorities include examining PBS among intersex, trans, and nonbinary people.
- College students
- Harm reduction
- Item response theory
- Protective behavioral strategies