M. Gatta1, L. Del Col2, L. Svanellini2, J. Lai2, C. Gatto Rotondo2, A. Spoto3, E. Ferruzza4, P.A. Battistella1

1University of Padua, Woman and Child Care Department (ITALY)
2Neuropsychiatric Unit of Child and Adolescent, Azienda ULSS 16 Padova (ITALY)
3University of Padua, General Psychology Department (ITALY)
4University of Padua, Department of Developmental and Social Psychology (ITALY)
Aim We aimed to study the efficacy of Focus Group (FG) activities, assessing how the adolescents’ habits were modified in terms of the number of occasions when they drank alcohol, and the quantity of alcohol units ingested. The FG is a form of group activity that uses communication and interaction between participants with a view to collecting new data on a given topic of interest. The initial hypothesis was that the young people who took part in the FGs would reduce their alcohol intake by comparison with the control group (CG). We aimed to study the efficacy of FG activities in terms of process too, throughout a qualitative analysis (text analysis) just to study how the FG works. This study involved 661 pupils in years 9 (325) and 10 (326) attending 27 secondary schools in the province of Padova North Italy.

Tools and procedure The study was conducted during the academic year 2009-2010.Before and after any activities, all the adolescents were administered two questionnaires: the Questionnaire on Adolescents’ Saturday evenings (QAS) and the Youth Self-Report. The questionnaires were administered in the second week of October 2009 (test) and in the second week of May 2010 (retest).

Results Concerning the frequency of consumption, it should be noted that the 9th graders in our sample participating in the FGs initially drank more frequently than controls, whereas the 10th graders involved in the FGs drank less frequently than controls. After completing the activities, there was a significant increase in the frequency with which the adolescents reported drinking alcohol in the CG, but not in the SG, suggesting that the FG activities were able to contrast the age-related increase in the frequency of alcohol consumption normally observed in the passage from year 9 to year 10. As for the amount of alcohol ingested, our analysis identified a significant difference in the number of alcohol consumed in the two school years: the 9th graders participating in the FGs initially drank more alcohol than the controls, whereas there were no differences between the two groups of 10th graders When it came to the process analysis (to see the process activated and developed during the course of the FGs), the following aspects are worth noting. When the adolescents first joined the FG, they contributed experiences that concerned other people; later on, once they had become more familiar and trusting with the other members of the group, they started to speak about themselves and their own experiences. The initially diffident (and sometimes frankly defiant) attitude with which the adolescents came together in the FGs seemed to stem from a prejudiced conviction. Their attitude became more cooperative as soon as they realized that the moderators ‘respected’ their ideas and were interested in hearing about them. Numerous students described having had a positive experience of “feeling free and not being judged”, in contrast with the more widespread tendency of adults to make decisions on their behalf.