Study to Determine Effects of Alcohol Advertising on Youth

SEATTLE, Wash. — In a new three-year study, Washington State University professor Erica Austin seeks to determine whether exposure to alcohol advertising influences children to drink before they have the opportunity to do so. In two related studies, Austin and her colleague, Bruce Pinkleton at the Edward R. Murrow School of Communications, have been examining how high school and college students respond to public service announcements and alcohol advertisements.
“Young people have well-developed beliefs about alcohol even before they have experience with drinking,” Austin said. “Alcohol advertising is one of the major sources of information and potential influences regarding alcohol beliefs. Yet there is a lack of information about the link between exposure to advertising and children’s experimentation with alcohol or other risky substances.”
Austin’s project will investigate the effects of exposure to and interpretations of alcohol advertising on drinking knowledge, beliefs and behaviors in collaboration with the Prevention Research Center in Berkeley, led by Joel Grube. Grube received his doctorate from WSU. The Prevention Research Center will survey 1,000 children and adolescents, age 9-16, and their parents. Austin’s study is one of three grants awarded nationally by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
WSU researchers plan to analyze the themes and images of television and magazine alcohol and comparison advertisements. Together, they will investigate young people’s responses via focus group discussions. Very few studies of this kind have looked at children under 10 or 12, and most of those focusing on media effects have come out of Austin’s research program at WSU.
Erica Austin is associate professor and head of the public relations sequence at Washington State University. Her professional background includes public relations for educational institutions, and she has served as a consultant to the State of Washington Department of Social and Health Services Division of Alcohol and Substance Abuse. Bruce Pinkleton, assistant professor at the Murrow School, has experience in tourism promotion as well as campaign research and planning for governmental institutions.


Erica Austin and Bruce Pinkleton will be speaking on “Barriers and Ironies in Public Relations Research Practices,” at the Feb. 11 luncheon of the Puget Sound Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), at noon at The Harborside, 1200 Westlake Ave. N., Seattle. If you would like to schedule an interview with Austin and Pinkleton before or after that public appearance, please contact Collin Tong, WSU associate director for westside communications, at 206/448-1333, or e-mail