Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy

Maine Rural Health Research Center, Population Health and Health Policy

Adolescent Alcohol Use: Do Risk and Protective Factors Explain Rural-Urban Differences?


Adolescent alcohol use is a significant public health problem among U.S. adolescents. Past studies, including our own work, have found that rural adolescents were more likely to use alcohol than urban adolescents. Research suggests that protective factors, such as peer and parental disapproval, may be weaker among youth living in rural areas. This study examines the factors associated with adolescent alcohol use, whether they differ between rural and urban populations, and the extent to which these differences account for rural-urban variations in adolescent alcohol use. This knowledge is crucial to the development of rural-specific prevention strategies, targeted research on rural adolescent alcohol use, and long-term policy interventions. Our findings confirm higher rates of binge drinking and driving under the influence among rural youth than among urban youth. Rural residence is associated with increased odds of binge drinking (OR 1.16, p< .05) and driving under the influence (OR 1.42, p< .001) even when income and protective factors are taken into account. Our findings suggest that adolescents who start drinking at an earlier age are more likely to engage in problem drinking behavior as they get older, leading to a need for interventions that target pre-teens and younger adolescents. Moreover, since we found urban-rural differences in specific protective factors, these may be the most promising for evidence-based, rural-specific prevention strategies targeting parents, schools, and churches. These are the factors that convey and reinforce consistent messages discouraging adolescent alcohol use from an early age.

Suggested Citation:

Gale JA, Lenardson JD, Lambert D, Hartley, D.  Adolescent Alcohol Use: Do Risk and Protective Factors Explain Rural-Urban Differences. (Working Paper #48).  Portland, ME: University of Southern Maine, Muskie School of Public Service, Maine Rural Health Research Center; March 2012.

Publication Type: 
Working Paper
Publish Date: 
March 1, 2012

Cutler Institute awarded $600,000 to help youth raised in foster system

Marty Zanghi

USM's Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy has been awarded a $600,000 grant to help young people raised in Maine's foster system to prepare for college and the workforce.

The money comes from the Annie E. Casey Foundation as part of a $5.4 million national effort aimed at youth who are homeless or in either the foster care or juvenile justice systems.

"Many of these young people have suffered abuse or trauma and were raised in poverty and neglect," said Marty Zanghi, the Cutler Center's youth development director.

The money -- including an expected $400,000 more in matching funds -- will pay for contracted work with agencies in the target areas, starting with the greater Portland area and Penobscot, Kennebec and Somerset counties.

Nationally and in Maine, only about 3 percent of people who grow up in the foster care system achieve a college degree, he said.

"It's dramatically lower than the rate for the general population," Zanghi said. "It's a horrible outcome."

It doesn't have to be that way, though.

"There are young people that overcome these circumstances," he said. "I know people who have master's degrees and Ph.Ds."

The Casey Foundation's national effort is being called the "Learn and Earn to Achieve Potential" (LEAP) initiative.

The initiative is working on partnerships in Maine and nine other areas: Alaska, Arizona, California, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and New York. In each case, people will adapt two evidence-based models to meet the needs of these youth, including support to address the trauma they may have experienced in their lives.

In Maine, the work will include a pair of successful programs, Jobs for Maine Graduates (JMG) and Jobs for the Future. Results will be carefully tracked, Zanghi said.

After the first year, the program is expected to grow.

"Eventually, the additional help will be available to all children, 14 and over, in the foster care system in the state of Maine," Zanghi said.

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