What is a parent-based intervention?
In an effort to engage college parents in alcohol prevention, a parental handbook for talking with college students about alcohol was developed by Rob Turrisi. The 35-page handbook contains several chapters of information not only demonstrating the dangers of alcohol use, but encouraging parents to speak with their students about alcohol. It includes specific tips and techniques for speaking with their students and also offers skills to teach students how to resist alcohol. The booklet also provides information and warning signs on how to know when their student may be having a problem with alcohol.
There is little research on intervention to help involve and engage parents as partners in alcohol prevention effort. The only research that has been published to date relates to the distribution of Turrisi’s handbook for parents.
The first research study written in 2001 relating to the use of the handbook in parent based intervention showed the most promise yet had a small sample size. Subsequent studies regarding the efficacy of the specific approach have shown mixed results. The 2001 study by Turrisi demonstrated decreased drinking and drunkenness tendencies among students and their peers, however there was no impact on high-risk drinking.
Researchers have more recently assessed the impact of Turrisi’s parental handbook on incoming freshmen (Ichiyama et al., 2009). Parents recruited into this study were done so under the auspices of researchers at the institutions where their student was matriculating, which presumably contributed to their willingness to participate. Parents were asked to read and summarize each chapter of the booklet and then rate each section according to readability, usefulness, and effectiveness. As part of the intervention, parents also wrote comments in the booklet before they returned it to researchers. Female students in the intervention group were found to be less likely to transition into drinking status during their freshman year and showed less growth in the number of drinks consumed per week.
Issues and considerations
While there is no shortage of research demonstrating how parents can influence college student alcohol consumption, the research on interventions to help involve and engage parents is sparse. The research on a parental handbook certainly demonstrates the promise of engaging parents in prevention, but it is still not clear if a handbook is the right medium to connect with parents.
Ichiyama, M.A., Fairlie, A.M., Wood, M.D., Turrisi, R., Francis, D.P., Ray, A.E., and Stanger, L.A. (2009). A Randomized Control Trial of Parent-Based Intervention on Drinking Behavior Among College Freshmen. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 16, 67-76.