OBJECTIVE: Personalized normative feedback, in which a respondent's perceived norms are contrasted with more accurate estimates of alcohol use, has been found to be an effective component in brief alcohol interventions. Less certain is how the impact of feedback as a mediator of behavior change may depend on, or be moderated by, gender. This study examined differences in mediation through two descriptive norms--the number of drinks consumed per occasion and frequency of drinking occasions--using data from the evaluation of a military web-based alcohol intervention.
METHOD: Gender differences in mediation of the Drinker's Check-Up's effects through descriptive norms were examined with multiple group path models and were tested with Wald and bootstrap confidence intervals for significance.
RESULTS: Results varied by the type of descriptive norm. Mediation by perceived norms about the number of drinks peers consumed did not vary significantly by gender. In contrast, mediated effects through norms about how often peers drank differed significantly by gender for the number of days alcohol was consumed, the number of binge episodes, heavy drinker status, and the number of drinks consumed per drinking episode. Female military personnel showed a greater number of mediated effects through norms about drinking frequency than did males.
CONCLUSIONS: Differences in mediation depend on the type of descriptive norm acting as mediator as well as the type of alcohol use outcome. Further research on these differences may enable tailoring of interventions to maximize the effectiveness of norms as agents of alcohol use change.