A Family-Focused Preventive Intervention for Mexican American Youths: Outcomes Reported by Parents, Teachers, and Youths

Millions of people leave their home societies to seek opportunities in other societies. Many immigrants to the United States come from Mexico. To reduce risks for substance use, internalizing, externalizing, and school problems among Mexican American youths, Gonzales et al. (2012) tested a family-focused intervention for Mexican American middle school students. The “Bridges to High School Program/Projecto Puentes a la Secundaria” (“Bridges/Puentes”) program was implemented with 338 randomly assigned families of Mexican American 7th graders. The program included separate evening sessions for parents and their 7th graders on nine occasions at the youths’ schools. Following each separate parent and youth session, parents and youths met for a conjoint session. The program also included two home visits and a school liaison to help families apply program skills to school-related programs. An additional 178 families were randomly assigned to a “low dose” condition consisting of a single 1.5-hour evening session where the families developed their own plans to support school success. Randomized assignments to the two conditions were stratified by whether English or Spanish was the predominant language in the family. Mediators that were expected to affect one-year outcomes included scales assessing parent-reported effective parenting and youth-reported family cohesion, youth’s coping efficacy, and school engagement. The mediation measures were obtained before and immediately after the intervention conditions. Outcome measures were obtained prior to the intervention conditions and one year after the interventions. The outcome measures included CBCLs completed separately by mothers and fathers, TRFs completed by teachers, and YSRs completed by youths, plus grade point average, number of school disciplinary actions, and youth-reported substance use. Mothers’ CBCL ratings yielded significantly lower Externalizing scores following the Bridges/Puentes condition than the low-dose condition.

However, most results involved complex moderation by family variables and baseline levels of the outcome measures, as well as by the hypothesized mediators. The hypothesized mediators also affected relations between baseline and outcome scores. For example, the significant effect of the Bridges/Puentes intervention on CBCL Externalizing scores was mediated by reductions in harsh maternal parenting. Many more significant effects were found on the hypothesized mediators for families whose predominant language was Spanish than for those whose predominant language was English. The authors concluded that “It is possible that the program was more sensitive to the unique needs of less acculturated immigrant families and that these families were more motivated to attend and also better able to benefit from the program” (p. 14).

Reference: Gonzales, N.A. et al. (2012) Randomized trial of a broad preventive intervention for Mexican American adolescents. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 80, 1-16.