Social Norms


Normative Education and Social Norms.

What is normative education?

Normative education itself has been variously defined (Stead and Angus 2002 P41). In general terms, normative education “seeks to address any misconceptions that learners might have about the prevalence of drug use and misuse (or any other risk‐taking behaviour) amongst their age group or within their community”

There are three related assumptions which underpin this approach:

  • that many young people over‐estimate the extent of risk-taking behaviours amongst their peers.
  • that they wrongly believe that these behaviours are the norm.
  • that because of these misconceptions they are vulnerable to social pressure to conform to this norm.

“The normative education approach, often drawing on survey data collected from young people, seeks to undermine these misconceptions and thereby reduce the number of young people who feel that they should experiment with drugs because they believe that everyone else is.” (Blueprint report)

Why use normative education?

Following a comprehensive review of the evidence, Stead and Angus [34] have recommended that drug education should
be based on a social influence approach specifically including resistance skills and normative education elements. Programs based on these approaches have consistently been found to be more effective than alternative approaches.

What are "Social Norms"?

There are two different but related kinds of norms.

One type, behavioural norms (also known as descriptive norms), refers to the most common actions or behaviours actually exhibited in a social group. Thus, the behavioural norm is what most individuals of a social group actually do.

The other type, attitudinal norms (also known as injunctive norms), refers to the most widely shared beliefs or expectations in a social group about how people in general or members of the group ought to behave in various circumstances.

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Social norms

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Normative Education
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