Social Norms


Goal 3: Encourage social norms that promote safety and health

Social norms are the values, beliefs, attitudes, and/or behaviors shared by a group of people. Social norms vary by social group, and individuals may alter their behavior to conform to different groups. Social norms can protect against violence, but they can also encourage violence. For instance, cultural acceptance of violence, either as a normal method of resolving conflict or as a usual part of rearing a child, is a risk factor for all types of interpersonal violence.

The social norms approach to health promotion assumes that people have misperceptions of the attitudes and behavior of others in their peer groups or communities. For example, a perception might be that most adolescents in Utah vape nicotine, but the data show us that only 12.4% of Utah adolescents actually vape. This misperception may be used by individuals to justify vaping thereby increasing the prevalence.

Additionally, people are less likely to speak out against a perceived norm, reinforcing social tolerance of it. The social norms approach seeks to correct these misperceptions by giving people a more realistic sense of the actual social norms in the community. Social norms approaches such as bystander interventions have also reported some success in changing the attitudes of male peer groups towards risky sexual behaviors.


Evidence-based or evidence informed approaches to encourage social norms that promote safety and health:

Change misperceptions about community social norms through education

Increase access and utilization of peer norm programs

Provide campaigns to support parents and positive parenting

Encourage policies shown to reduce corporal punishment

Bystander approaches

Mobilizing men and boys

Trauma informed approach

Street outreach

Community norms change programs

Enhance primary care to include screening assessments (eg, SEEK)

Ensure services are victim-centered

Continue effective treatment modalities with affected clients

Success is:

            Increase the number of community organizations per 100,000 population

            Increase the percentage of adults aged 25+ who have a Bachelor’s degree or higher

            Increase the High School cohort graduation rate

            Increase the percentage of registered voters voting the last election

           Decrease the percentage of children who report neglect or physical/sexual abuse