A family-based intervention to promote protection against, and reduce risk for, behavior problems, illicit drug use, alcohol use, cigarette use, and unsafe sexual behavior in Hispanic youth and adolescents.
Familias Unidas™ is a multilevel family-based intervention designed to prevent substance use and sexual risk behavior in Hispanic adolescents. The program is influenced by culturally specific models developed for Hispanic populations in the United States, and is delivered primarily through multi-parent groups, which aim to develop effective parenting skills. The multi-parent groups, led by a trained facilitator, meet in 8-9 weekly two-hour sessions for the duration of the intervention. Each group has 12 to 15 parents, with at least one parent from each participating family. Sessions include problem posing and participatory exercises. Group discussions aim to increase parents’ understanding of their role in protecting their adolescent from harmful and risky behaviors and to facilitate parental investment. The program also includes 4 to 10 one-hour family visits in which parents are encouraged to apply the newly learned parenting skills while interacting with their adolescent.
Familias Unidas™ also involves meetings of parents with school personnel, including the school counselor and teachers, to connect parents to their adolescent’s school world. Family activities involving the parents, the adolescent, and his or her peers and their parents allow parents to connect to their adolescent’s peer network and practice monitoring skills.
Facilitators must be Spanish-speaking and bicultural, with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in psychology and 3 years of clinical experience, or a master’s degree and 1 year of clinical experience.
Familias Unidas™ has been evaluated in seven randomized controlled studies. The study which qualified for Blueprints certification (Pantin et al., 2009) randomly assigned 213 8th grade students at-risk for problem behaviors in three Florida middle schools to treatment or control. Control families received three referrals to agencies in their catchment area that serve youth with behavior problems. Assessments were completed at baseline and at 6, 18, and 30 months post-baseline.
Familias Unidas™ resulted in a lower rate of increase in substance use, compared to controls, from pretest to 30-month posttest (15% to 25% vs. 13% to 34%). Additionally, family functioning improved in the treatment group compared to the control group and parents reported a smaller percentage of treatment youth displaying externalizing behaviors. There were no significant differences for engaging in sexual intercourse, although sexually active youth in the intervention reported a significantly increased level of condom use from 6 months to 30 months postbaseline, compared to controls.
Pantin, H., Prado, G., Lopez, B., Huang, S., Tapia, M. I., Schwartz, S. J., … Branchini, J. (2009). A randomized controlled trial of Familias Unidas for Hispanic adolescents with behavior problems. Psychosomatic Medicine, 71, 987-985.