The purpose of this study was to explore the personal characteristics and pedagogical styles of effective abstinence instructors. Abstinence instructors receive regular training and evaluation and tend to remain in the abstinence education field for multiple years. Abstinence education programs are offered throughout the United States and present a pool of participants in which to sociologically examine the dynamics of the relationship of adolescents and instructors in a youth prevention program. This qualitative study is based on in-depth personal interviews of eight abstinence instructors who shared insights into their own teaching experiences, expressed their thoughts about who they are as a person and their experiences that impacted their teaching, what they know about teaching methods and relating to students, and how what they care about informed their instructional delivery. Three abstinence program administrators also presented their insights into effective abstinence instruction. Effective abstinence educators embody personal characteristics and pedagogical styles common to effective teachers in public schools and other positive youth development programs. Supporting the concept of teacher immediacy (Mehrabian, 1969, 1981), interview data indicate that abstinence instructors perceive that integrating who they are, what they know and what they care about into their teaching style and classroom persona increases their effectiveness. Findings from this study may inform recruitment, training, evaluation and retention of prevention program instructors for youth.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Sociology



Date Submitted


Document Type





abstinence educators, teacher immediacy

Included in

Sociology Commons