Cultural norms are behavior patterns that are typical of specific groups. Such behaviors are learned from parents, teachers, peers, and many others whose values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors take place in the context of their own organizational culture.
Some norms are healthy and some are not. Some contribute to the betterment of individuals, families, and communities; others are precisely the kinds of high-risk behaviors that mainstream American society would like to reduce or eliminate. Conflict or uncertainty over which cultural norms should be acceptable in which circumstances has contributed to change and instability in the fields of education and prevention during recent years.
Cultural norms often are so strongly ingrained in an individual's daily life that the individual may be unaware of certain behaviors. Until these behaviors are seen in the context of a different culture with different values and beliefs, the individual may have difficulty recognizing and changing them. The goal of prevention and effective youth development is to understand and improve cultural norms, and thereby reduce alcohol, tobacco, and other drug (ATOD) use.