Attitudes Associated with Alcohol and Marijuana Referral Actions by Resident Assistants

Dennis L. Thombs, Cynthia J. Osborn, Matthew E. Rossheim, Sumihiro Suzuki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


This exploratory study examined associations between resident assistant (RA) attitudes and referral actions to identify training strategies for strengthening the ability of these paraprofessionals to recognize and refer college students in their living units who misuse alcohol and marijuana. The study’s hypotheses were that (1) referral self-efficacy and perceived referral norms would be positively associated with RA referral actions and (2) perceived referral barriers and referral anticipatory anxiety would be negatively associated with RAs’ referral actions. A total of 317 RAs at eight residential campuses in different regions of the U.S. took part in the study. All participating RAs had at least one semester of work experience. Just prior to the Fall semester of 2012, RA’s responded to an online survey that assessed their alcohol and marijuana referral attitudes and referral actions. Overall, RAs reported considerable anxiety about approaching and referring students who may have an alcohol and/or marijuana problem. Perceived referral norms among RAs indicated substantial variability in perceptions about others’ expectations of them for referring students who may have alcohol and marijuana problems. Results from two multivariable logistic regression analyses showed that referral self-efficacy distinguished RAs who took alcohol referral actions and marijuana referral actions from those who did not do so. Neither length of RA service nor time spent on campus was associated with referral actions. RA training programs could give attention to strengthening referral self-efficacy through a series of increasingly difficult skill-building activities during pre- and in-service training. In addition, senior residence life and housing professional staff may consider assessing the extent to which RAs under their supervision follow established protocols for assisting students with possible alcohol and marijuana problems. The development of evidence-based RA training programs will require additional research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)429-437
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Primary Prevention
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2 Nov 2014


  • Referral skill training
  • Residence life
  • Substance abuse


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