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Programme to deter youth alcohol use also reduces conduct problems
A University of Georgia (UGA) programme designed to reduce alcohol use, drug use and risky sexual behaviour in African-American youth also reduces the likelihood of engaging in conduct problems by up to 74% two years later, according to a new study.

The finding is the latest in a series of studies that demonstrate the effectiveness of the Strong African-American Families (SAAF, pronounced “safe”) programme, which is increasingly being adopted across eight Georgia counties and the city of Denver.

Developed by Gene Brody, director of the UGA Center for Family Research, and Professor Velma McBride Murry, SAAF is based on more than 20 years of research that has identified parenting and care-giving practices that allow low-income, African-American families living in rural areas to raise children who are successful despite the challenges that stem from poverty, racism and a lack of social services. The programme consists of seven weekly meetings that include concurrent, hour-long, sessions for pre-adolescent youth and their parents followed by a joint session in which the families practice the skills they’ve learned.

Rather than lecturing to participants, SAAF facilitators engage them with specially designed videos, activities and games. Parents learn how to actively monitor, communicate and emotionally support their children and adolescents. Youth learn to set goals, manage peer pressure and appreciate their parents and other adults in their lives. In the joint sessions, the parents and youth participate in activities that help strengthen their relationships and instill pride in being African American. The programme was first implemented in 2001.

Brody and his colleagues have conducted several studies that compare the outcomes of hundreds of programme participants with members of a control group. The researchers have found that among programme participants: Alcohol use was reduced by 28% two years following the intervention and 25% six years later; Sexual behavior and marijuana use decreased; Caregiver depression was reduced; The likelihood of youth with low self control engaging in conduct problems decreased by 74% two years later.

Source: ‘Long-Term Effects of the Strong African American Families Program on Youths’ Conduct Problems, Journal of Adolescent Health November 2008 (Vol. 43, Issue 5, Pages 474-481)

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