Friend or Foe: Personal Use and Friends’ Use of Protective Behavioral Strategies and Spring Break Drinking

Abstract The present study examined associations between use of protective behavioral strategies (PBS) by college students and their friends and drinking-related outcomes during Spring Break (SB). Moreover, this study examined the influence of friends’ own PBS use on participants’ PBS use during SB. Participants included college students (N = 694) and their nominated friends (N = 131) who were part of a larger study of SB drinking. Data were collected via web-based surveys that participants and friends took after SB, which assessed SB PBS, drinking, and related negative consequences. Results indicated that higher levels of Serious Harm Reduction (SHR) strategies and Limiting/Stopping (LS) strategies were associated with increased consumption, higher likelihood of experiencing any consequences, and an increased number of consequences. A different pattern emerged for Manner of Drinking (MD) strategy use; participants utilizing higher levels of MD strategies drank less and had fewer consequences. LS and MD strategies used by the participant’s friends appeared to have less of an impact on the participant’s drinking outcomes. However, greater friends’ use of SHR strategies was associated with increased alcohol use by the participant, but not with consequences. Greater friends’ use of SHR strategies was associated with greater SHR strategy use by the participant. Friends’ LS and MD strategies were not associated with participant drinking, consequences, or PBS. These findings highlight the potential utility of interventions that focus on drinking behaviors on specific high-risk occasions for those at risk as well as for their friends.