Family-Focused Prevention in an African-American Population


To conduct a controlled study of a culturally-sensitive adaptation of the Iowa Strengthening Families Program, called the Strengthening Families Program For Parents and Youth 10-14 (SFP 10-14), using a randomly selected subsample of African-American families from the Institute's ongoing Family and Community Health Study (FACHS). The original SFP10-14 was revised to render it appropriate for African-American and Hispanic, as well as white families. The revised video-based program made use of African-American and white narrators and actors. African-American consultants assisted in enhancing the cultural sensitivity of the project and suggested that it should be called "Harambee," a Swahili word meaning "pulling together." The teaching manuals, program videotapes, promotional videotape and brochure, and all correspondence to families referred to the project as Harambee. These materials used photographs and videos of African-Americans as well as ethnically appropriate artwork. Other culturally sensitive features of Harambee included: (a) matching the ethnicity of the intervention participants and the intervention implementation team, (b) nine intervention videotapes for parents and youth that included African-American narrators and actors, (c) the application of promotional materials used in recruiting families (videotape and brochure) that incorporated positive comments, photographs, and videotape segments of families participating in the program. Overall, the program content was very similar to that in the previously-tested, original program.


Results of the project clearly demonstrated implementation feasibility. A sufficient number of families was successfully recruited, retention rates were strong, and observer ratings showed high adherence to the intervention protocol. Control group comparisons at posttest showed positive results on intervention-targeted child behaviors and on child participation in family meetings.


  • Its findings informed the development of a longitudinal study of a universal intervention for African-American families, called the Strong African-American Families Program (SAAF), with culturally-specific content (e.g. parental guidance concerning racial identity and racial prejudice).
  • The evidence it has produced that African-American families can respond positively to a program designed for the general population. Several features of the intervention design and implementation may have facilitated families' acceptance of a program also used for the majority population, such as the inclusion of African-American families on program videotapes, culturally sensitive recruitment materials, the use of African-American facilitators, and participation incentives.


Principal Investigator: Richard Spoth

Funder: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism