Examining Engagement Effects in an Adaptive Preventive Intervention for College Student Drinking

Megan E. Patrick, Aparajita Sur, Brooke Arterberry, Sarah Peterson, Nicole Morrell, David M. Vock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: This study determined the characteristics of engagement and whether engagement in an adaptive preventive intervention (API) was associated with reduced binge drinking and alcohol-related consequences. Method: Incoming students were recruited for a sequential multiple assignment randomized trial (SMART; N = 891, 62.4% female, 76.8% non-Hispanic White) with an assessment-only control group. The API occurred during the first semester of college, with outcomes assessed at the end of the semester. The API involved two stages. Stage 1 included universal intervention components (personalized normative feedback [PNF] and self-monitoring). Stage 2 bridged heavy drinkers to access additional resources. We estimated the effect of engagement in Stage 1 only and in the whole API (Stages 1 and 2) among the intervention group, and the effect of the API versus control had all students assigned an API engaged, on alcohol-related outcomes. Results: Precollege binge drinking, intention to pledge a fraternity/sorority, and higher conformity motives were most associated with lower odds of Stage 1 engagement. Action (readiness to change) and PNF engagement were associated with Stage 2 engagement. API engagement was associated with significant reductions in alcohol-related consequences among heavy drinkers. Compared to the control, we estimated the API would reduce the relative increase in alcohol-related consequences from baseline to follow-up by 25%, had all API students engaged. Conclusions: Even partial engagement in each component of the “light-touch” API rendered benefits. Analyses suggested that had all students in the intervention group engaged, the API would significantly reduce the change in alcohol-related consequences over the first semester in college.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)652-664
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of consulting and clinical psychology
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 American Psychological Association


  • alcohol
  • engagement
  • sequential multiple assignment randomized trial
  • web-based intervention
  • young adult


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