A recent Science Update from the National Institute of Mental Health highlights a new study that appears in the Dec 2007 issue of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. The study suggests that interventions focused on strengthening the family system, including interventions with parents to encourage involvement and improved communication, may be more effective in reducing Hispanic teen risk behaviors than interventions that target those behaviors specifically. University of Miami researchers randomly assigned Hispanic eighth-graders and their primary caregivers to one of three combined interventions for a period of one year:
- Familias Unidas plus Parent-Preadolescent Training for HIV Prevention (PATH)
- English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) plus PATH
- ESOL plus HeartPower for Hispanics, an American Heart Association program
“Familias Unidas plus PATH was designed to promote positive adolescent development by increasing parental involvement and teaching more effective parental communication techniques. The program was designed to be more consistent with Hispanic cultural expectations, in which life is family-centered and vital to an individual’s emotional support. PATH is designed to specifically increase parent-adolescent communication about sexual behavior and HIV risks, but it does not target family dynamics specifically. HeartPower for Hispanics is designed to encourage healthier behaviors among Hispanic youth to reduce obesity and heart disease risks.”
Assessments at midway through the intervention year, at the end of the intervention year, and one and two years afterwards showed that the Familias Unidas + PATH intervention was:
- more effective than either of the other two in reducing cigarette use,
- more effective than ESOL + HeartPower in reducing illicit drug use, and
- more effective than ESOL + PATH in reducing unsafe sexual behavior.
The researchers caution that Mexican-Americans, which represent the majority of Hispanic residents of the US, were not well-represented in their study, so they encourage further study of the effectiveness of family-centered interventions among Mexican-Americans before generalizing the results to the wider US Hispanic population — certainly an opportunity for researchers here in South Texas.
Prado G, Pantin H, Briones E, Schwartz SJ, Feaster D, Huang S, Sullivan S, Tapia MI, Sabillon E, Lopez B, Szapocznik J. A randomized controlled trial of a parent-centered intervention in prevention substance use and HIV risk behavior in Hispanic adolescents. J Consult Clin Psychol. 2007 Dec; 75(6): 914-926. doi: 10.1037/0022-006X.75.6.914 PubMed link