Association of environmental indicators with teen alcohol use and problem behavior: Teens’ observations vs. objectively-measured indicators

Hilary F. Byrnes, Brenda A. Miller, Christopher N. Morrison, Douglas J. Wiebe, Marcie Woychik, Sarah E. Wiehe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Most prior studies use objectively measured data (e.g., census-based indicators) to assess contextual risks. However, teens’ observations might be more important for their risk behavior. Objectives: 1) determine relationships between observed and objective indicators of contextual risks 2) determine relations of observed and objective indicators with teen alcohol use and problem behavior. Teens aged 14–16 (N=170) carried GPS-enabled smartphones for one month, with locations documented. Ecological momentary assessment (EMA) measured teens’ observations via texts regarding risk behaviors and environmental observations. Objective indicators of alcohol outlets and disorganization were spatially joined to EMAs based on teens’ location at the time of the texts. Observed and objective disorganization, and objective indicators of alcohol outlets were related to alcohol use. Observed disorganization was related to problem behavior, while objective indicators were unrelated. Findings suggest the importance of considering teens’ observations of contextual risk for understanding influences on risk behavior and suggest future directions for research and prevention strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-157
Number of pages7
JournalHealth & Place
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2017


  • Adolescent alcohol use
  • Alcohol outlets
  • GPS
  • Neighborhood context
  • Observations

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