A constellation of cultural barriers impugn the delivery of effective mental health services to Hispanic children and adolescents, who experience a disproportionate incidence of mental health problems relative to other ethnic groups. Hence there is a need to develop and evaluate culturally sensitive therapeutic modalities that bridge Hispanics' bicultural conflicts. An ongoing study established that using Puerto Rican cuentos (folktales) as bicultural modeling therapy enhanced personality functioning with 5-10 year-old children. The proposed renewal application extends this modality to older children and adolescents, who frequently lack adaptive adult role models, using presentations of heroes/heroines prominent in puerto Rican history and American society to therapeutically model positive self- and ethnic identity, successful achievement, adaptive behavior and coping with anxiety and stress.
Specific aims are to evaluate hero/heroine cuento therapy relative to traditional therapy, and no intervention; evaluate the role of mothers in therapy; assess treatment interactions with gender, grade level, and SES; determine the one-year stability of therapeutic outcomes; examine treatment effectiveness in relation to process data collected throughout the period of intervention; and develop a training manual for the administration of therapy, if the evaluation of results is favorable. Puerto Rican students (N=120) in grades 5 to 8, screened for behavior problems by teacher rating, will be randomly assigned to one of three therapy conditions (hero/heroine, traditional, no intervention) and participate in 19 90-minute weekly sessions. In half of the cases, therapy will be conducted with the students' mothers serving as therapist aides. On a pre- and post-therapy basis, subjects will be evaluated with respect to achievement motivation, self-concept, Hispanic identity, conduct disorder, trait anxiety, and symptoms of psychological distress. Therapeutic outcomes will be statistically assessed immediately following therapy and one year later. Long therm objectives of this modality, therefore, are to impact on the most pressing mental health needs of Puerto Rican youngsters who are at high risk of later disorder but are typically unresponsive to traditional interventions.
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