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Professor Perkins’ New Book on Social Norms Receives Praise

Posted on Thursday, February 20, 2003

The "father of social norms" (LA Times) edited a new volume on preventing substance abuse to be used as a handbook for educators and counselors.

February 20, 2003 Geneva, N.Y. -- Hobart and William Smith Professor of Sociology H. Wesley Perkins developed the social norms approach to preventing substance abuse more than a decade ago, and continues to refine and modify this model for use by educators and counselors across the nation. With David Craig, professor of chemistry at the Colleges, Perkins co-directs the Hobart and William Smith Colleges Alcohol and Other Drug Education Project and the two are frequent guests at schools and universities across the country that want to know more about this successful model of abuse prevention.

Now the two have a new tool to educate others about the social norms approach. "The Social Norms Approach to Preventing School and College Age Substance Abuse: A Handbook for Educators, Counselors, and Clinicians," edited by Perkins, was published by Jossey-Bass in February. The book outlines the history of the social norms approach, offers case studies relating the success of the model at various institutions, discusses social norms work beyond the campus, and posits further applications and challenges for the social norms model in promoting health and well-being.

Perkins co-wrote several chapters of the book, including two chapters written with Craig: "The Hobart and William Smith Colleges Experiment: A Synergistic Social Norms Approach Using Print, Electronic Media and Curriculum Infusion to Reduce Collegiate Problem Drinking" and "The Imaginary Lives of Peers: Patterns of Substance Use and Misperceptions of Norms among Secondary School Students." He also wrote the opening chapter about the emergence of the social norms theory and the final chapter on the future promise and challenges of the approach.

Amazon.com's editorial review describes the book as "a groundbreaking book that explains and documents the tremendous success of the social norms approach. This is a positive alternative to traditional methods in preventing substance abuse among young people. It works by identifying young people's dramatic misperceptions about their peer norms and promoting accurate public reporting of actual positive norms that exist in all student populations…"

The book is already receiving praise from other educators. Former Hobart and William Smith Colleges President Richard H. Hersh, now president of Trinity College, said: "Too much talk about the alcohol issue is rhetorical. The social norms approach offers a refreshingly honest and helpful approach to the drinking crisis on our campuses by using the peer group as part of the solution."

Timothy C. Marchell, director of Alcohol Policy Initiatives at Cornell University, said, "Social norms pioneer Wes Perkins has assembled the country's leading theorists and practitioners to create the most comprehensive guide available in this cutting edge field."

Perkins is a graduate of Purdue University, and he received his M.A., M. Div., M. Phil. and Ph.D. from Yale University. He is the author of dozens of journal articles about substance abuse prevention and has been honored with national awards for his work in preventing alcohol and drug abuse in colleges and universities. His work with Craig is recognized by the U.S. Department of Educations as a premiere model for substance abuse prevention.

Craig, the Colleges' Philip J. Moorad '28 and Margaret N. Moorad Professor of Science and a professor of chemistry, has worked with Perkins on social norms programming at the Colleges for several years. He received his B.A. at California State at Chico and his Ph.D. at the University of California at Riverside.

The book is available at The College Store and through Amazon.com.


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