Use of theory in computer-based interventions to reduce alcohol use among adolescents and young adults: a systematic reviewReport as inadecuate

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BMC Public Health

, 16:517

Health behavior, health promotion and society


BackgroundAlcohol use and binge drinking among adolescents and young adults remain frequent causes of preventable injuries, disease, and death, and there has been growing attention to computer-based modes of intervention delivery to prevent-reduce alcohol use. Research suggests that health interventions grounded in established theory are more effective than those with no theoretical basis. The goal of this study was to conduct a literature review of computer-based interventions CBIs designed to address alcohol use among adolescents and young adults aged 12–21 years and examine the extent to which CBIs use theories of behavior change in their development and evaluations. This study also provides an update on extant CBIs addressing alcohol use among youth and their effectiveness.

MethodsBetween November and December of 2014, a literature review of CBIs aimed at preventing or reducing alcohol in PsychINFO, PubMed, and Google Scholar was conducted. The use of theory in each CBI was examined using a modified version of the classification system developed by Painter et al. Ann Behav Med 35:358–362, 2008.

ResultsThe search yielded 600 unique articles, 500 were excluded because they did not meet the inclusion criteria. The 100 remaining articles were retained for analyses. Many articles were written about a single intervention; thus, the search revealed a total of 42 unique CBIs. In examining the use of theory, 22 CBIs 52 % explicitly named one or more theoretical frameworks. Primary theories mentioned were social cognitive theory, transtheoretical model, theory of planned behavior and reasoned action, and health belief model. Less than half 48 %, did not use theory, but mentioned either use of a theoretical construct such as self-efficacy or an intervention technique e.g., manipulating social norms. Only a few articles provided detailed information about how the theory was applied to the CBI; the vast majority included little to no information.

ConclusionsGiven the importance of theory in guiding interventions, greater emphasis on the selection and application of theory is needed. The classification system used in this review offers a guiding framework for reporting how theory based principles can be applied to computer based interventions.

KeywordsAdolescent Young adult Alcohol drinking Alcohol prevention Theoretical models Computer systems Computer-based interventions Systematic review  Download fulltext PDF

Author: Kathleen P. Tebb - Rebecca K. Erenrich - Carolyn Bradner Jasik - Mark S. Berna - James C. Lester - Elizabeth M. Ozer


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