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Am Fam Physician. 2005;72(5):884

Several intervention methods have proved effective in reducing risky sexual behaviors and substance abuse in adolescents. Peer pressure is an important influence on adolescent behaviors, but parental influences have been shown to have an effect on adolescent behaviors as well. Multiple studies have examined the efficacy of intervention programs in reducing risky behaviors in this age group. Few studies, however, have evaluated the long-term efficacy beyond 12 months. Peer networks change over time, whereas parental influence is more permanent. Stanton and associates evaluated a parental monitoring intervention program with or without boosters on various adolescent risk behaviors over 24 months.

The randomized longitudinal trial included 817 black adolescents (13 to 16 years of age) living in 35 low-income, urban community locations. All participants were involved in a peer risk-reduction program. The participants were split into three groups (i.e., adolescents only involved in the peer intervention program, adolescents involved in a boosted peer intervention program, and adolescents involved in the peer intervention program and an additional parent intervention program). The parent intervention program consisted of a videotape presentation and discussion on improved parent-child communication—parents and adolescents participated. The boosted peer intervention program involved four 90-minute small group sessions. The main outcome was risk behaviors and perceptions 24 months after intervention.

The authors’ final analysis included 494 participants. Six of 16 risk behaviors (e.g., school suspensions, carrying a bat as a weapon, substance abuse, and asking a sexual partner about condom use) were significantly reduced in adolescents in the parent intervention group compared with those in the other groups. The mean self-efficacy scores were higher in the parent intervention group than in the peer-only intervention group. The parent intervention group also had better intrinsic reward scores. The boosted peer intervention group had a positive added effect in only a few areas.

The authors conclude that a parent intervention program can expand and sustain protection better than a peer intervention program. They add that, according to their study, parents make a difference in the lives of their adolescents.

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