This application addresses the need for preventive interventions designed to protect two-parent, rural African American families with an early adolescent from the negative effects of economic distress. Economic hardship disproportionately affects African American families in the rural South. Economic constraints and oppressive social structures in rural communities combine to render steady employment a challenge for many African American parents, particularly fathers. Economic pressures cascade through the family system, undermining parents' emotional well- being, personal and co-parenting relationships, and use of competence-promoting parenting practices. As a result, many rural African American early adolescents are at risk for academic failure and school dropout, behavioral and emotional problems, substance use, and the early initiation of sexual activity. This application addresses the need for health promotion and prevention programs designed to bolster protective family processes for African Americans living in rural communities. We propose to evaluate the efficacy of the Program for Strong African American Families (ProSAAF) in a Phase II prevention trial. Based on 15 years of longitudinal and prevention research with rural African American families, ProSAAF consists of 6 structured, 1.5-hour sessions conducted in families' homes. A Phase I randomized pilot trial (n = 94) showed that (a) our recruitment and implementation protocols were effective; (b) ProSAAF significantly enhanced stress-buffering couple relationship processes and competence- promoting parenting practices; and (c) ProSAAF deterred early adolescent self-regulatory problems. We propose to recruit 444 rural African American families who have experienced recent economic distress and are rearing a youth age 10-14. Families will be randomly assigned to ProSAAF or a minimal-contact control condition. Baseline, 8, 16, and 24-month assessments will be obtained of adolescents' academic, social, and self-regulatory competence; internalizing and externalizing problems; onset of sexual activity; and substance use. The ProSAAF causative model incorporates protective processes in the couple subsystem that ameliorate the impact of stress generated by economic insecurity (e.g., knowledge of the impact of financial stressors on the family, problem-solving versus avoidant coping strategies, and access to community resources) and competence-promoting parenting practices (e.g., involved-vigilant parenting; parental involvement in adolescents' academic pursuits; and adaptive racial socialization).

Public Health Relevance

The stress from economic hardships takes a heavy toll on rural African American families, affecting couple relationships, parenting, and youth development. The Program for Strong African American Families (ProSAAF) was designed to protect families and youth from the effects of economic distress. We propose to evaluate the effectiveness of ProSAAF, a 6- session, family-centered intervention, delivered in the family home.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Research Project (R01)
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Community-Level Health Promotion Study Section (CLHP)
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Esposito, Layla E
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University of Georgia
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United States
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Lavner, Justin A; Barton, Allen W; Bryant, Chalandra M et al. (2018) Racial discrimination and relationship functioning among African American couples. J Fam Psychol 32:686-691
Barton, Allen W; Beach, Steven R H; Bryant, Chalandra M et al. (2018) Stress spillover, African Americans' couple and health outcomes, and the stress-buffering effect of family-centered prevention. J Fam Psychol 32:186-196
Barton, Allen W; Beach, Steven R H; Wells, Ashley C et al. (2018) The Protecting Strong African American Families Program: a Randomized Controlled Trial with Rural African American Couples. Prev Sci 19:904-913
Beach, Steven R H; Lei, Man Kit; Brody, Gene H et al. (2018) Prevention of Early Substance Use Mediates, and Variation at SLC6A4 Moderates, SAAF Intervention Effects on OXTR Methylation. Prev Sci 19:90-100
Barton, Allen W; Beach, Steven R H; Lavner, Justin A et al. (2017) Is Communication a Mechanism of Relationship Education Effects among Rural African Americans? J Marriage Fam 79:1450-1461
Beach, Steven R H; Barton, Allen W; Lei, Man Kit et al. (2016) Decreasing Substance use Risk among African American Youth: Parent-based Mechanisms of Change. Prev Sci 17:572-83