More about behaviour | Changing Ways | Increase impact with behavioural knowledge

More about behaviour 

  • Julie de Vaan

Youth alcohol abuse prevention (GGD)

Updated: Aug 3

The GGD (the public health service) wants to make people aware of the dangers of alcohol, smoking and drugs, and reduce and prevent substance use and abuse, specifically among minors. In addition to a long-running national campaign, GGDs also want to locally increase their impact in the field of alcohol prevention.

We developed specific interventions for local GGDs to make minors, young people and their parents in their region more aware of alcohol use and to prevent drinking under the age of 18.

Insights & advice

Before we can change behaviour effectively, we first need to know how people make choices in their situation. That is why we investigated why people do or do not apply the "no drinking under 18" rule. This choice can made as followed:

  • People are not positive about alcohol prevention among young people. This is because they are not aware of the problems and consequences and/or because they personally have a very positive attitude towards alcohol.

  • People are positive about alcohol prevention among young people, but do not always have the motivation to apply the "no drinking under 18" rule. This is, for example, due to (the fear of consequences for) their social position, or the feeling that it is unfair to prohibit alcohol consumption or not being allowed to drink.

  • People are positive about alcohol prevention among young people, but feel they have little control over this, or that the "no drinking under 18" rule is not effective or feasible. For example, because they have little positive experience with making rules or setting boundaries, feel powerless under social influence or have the idea that they have more control over alcohol use if they deviate slightly from the rule.

  • Finally, in specific regions there were mainly objections to (openly) discussing alcohol-related topics. This is partly due to the fear of judgment, the need for independence and a skeptical attitude towards others. This makes it more difficult to influence their alcohol consumption and to reach and convince people to apply the "no drinking under 18" rule.

Practical applications

Based on these insights, we developed suitable interventions, taking into account the possibilities and resources that the GGD has per region.

In regions where parents are difficult to reach for authorities such as the GGD, we have set up a partnership with schools. With several interventions that we have deployed through schools, we have made it more fun and easier to talk about issues related to alcohol use and parenting, especially at home:

  • At school, children were given a jar full of questions, including questions about parenting and alcohol use. This can be used at home to stimulate parents and children to start the conversation in a playful way, at their own pace and in their own way.

  • In addition, children have been given a school assignment in which they have to interview (and therefore talk to) their parents about upbringing and substance use.

  • Finally, we organized a theme evening about alcohol in schools. To lower the threshold, parents were grouped with like-minded parents on the basis of parenting style. Under the guidance of an expert about they could talk about what they encounter in their upbringing.

In particular, the school assignment proved to be very effective in reaching parents, increasing awareness about alcohol, and encouraging people to apply the "no drinking under 18" rule.

For the regions where the GGD finds more connection with parents, we developed a board game. It can be used at schools, (sports) clubs or associations, or even can be lent to involved parents who like to start a conversation with others. During the game, players are stimulated to talk with each other with various questions and assignments. They also receive information about alcohol-related themes that they might find useful. The main goal of the game is:

  • To make people aware of the negative influence of alcohol on young people

  • To help people to set rules, boundaries and apply the "no drinking under 18" rule

  • And that people realize that they are often on the same page with other parents when it comes to alcohol prevention

After playing, people indicated that they found the game fun, educational, useful and that they are more motivated to apply the "no drinking under 18" rule.