Strong African American Families (SAAF) is a parental training and family therapy program grounded in social bonding and control theories. The program works to strengthen the attachment between parent and child to reduce the likelihood of youth involvement in various problem behaviors, particularly alcohol and substance abuse.
SAAF aims to strengthen parenting practices related to monitoring and supporting youth, articulating parental expectations for alcohol use, communicating with youth about sex, and promoting positive racial socialization. It also works to promote youths’ ability to focus on goals for the future, resist involvement in risk behaviors, maintain negative images of risk behaviors and peers who engage in them, and accept parental influences.
SAAF targets African American families with children 10 to 14 years of age.
Caregivers and their children attend seven consecutive weekly sessions at a venue in their community (e.g., local community centers, schools, and churches). Caregiver session topics address monitoring, communication, limit setting, parental school involvement, racial socialization, and clear expectations about alcohol use. The youth sessions address goal setting, attitudes about substance use and people who use substances, risk behavior, resistance skills, racial socialization, understanding of parental perspectives, and acceptance of parental influences. The family sessions build upon these topics while supporting efforts to strengthen family relationships, as well as cultural pride and values.
Brody and colleagues (2006) evaluated Strong African American Families (SAAF) using an experimental design in which eight rural Georgia counties were randomly assigned to receive treatment (SAAF programming) or a control condition (brochures about parenting). Families receiving programming attended seven consecutive weekly classes at local community centers. Classes consisted of family instruction and separate classes for parents and children. Participants were chosen from county schools’ enrollment lists. Eleven-year-old students were randomly selected from these lists; their families were invited to participate in the study.
Out of 521 randomly selected families, 322 participated and completed pretests. The treatment group, 172 families, received SAAF programming. The control group, 150 families, received three informational mailings about parenting techniques. Before treatment, there were no significant differences between the treatment group and the control group. In 53.6 percent of the families the target child was a girl. Of the mothers in families, slightly more than a third were single, another third were married but separated, 23 percent were married and living with their husbands, and 7 percent were living with partners (not married). The median household income was $1,655 per month reflecting the low-income families the intervention targets.
Researchers collected observational data through home visits and used parent and child self-reports of behavior. They collected data from families 1 month before the SAAF intervention, 3 months after the classes had ended, and again 2 years following the end of classes. There was seven months between pretest and posttest. First, Hierarchical Linear Modeling was used to compare group equivalence. Next, Structural Equation Modeling was used for hypotheses testing. Specifically, intervention-targeted behaviors such as parenting style and enhancement of youth protective factors were tested to determine whether the SAAF programming had any direct effects. These analyses were replicated using multilevel analysis of covariance.
One possible limitation of the study is that only mothers received the parenting classes. Even though both parents were invited to attend the SAAF parenting classes, fathers rarely did so. Additionally, the program is concentrated on rural families and their needs; it is not known how the program would translate and whether it would be effective in an urban setting.
Brody and colleagues (2006) found that mothers in the treatment group reported more communicative parenting and that the targeted children had more protective factors. Additional analyses revealed that parents who attended more than five classes had greater changes in their parenting styles and in their childrens’ risk behaviors.
Child Alcohol Use
Children in the treatment group had negative images and attitudes of drinkers, drinking, and early sexual activity, as well as more effective resistance skills and future-oriented goals when compared to those in the control group. Children in the treatment group were also less likely to use alcohol. The treatment group did experience a growth in alcohol use, but its increase was 17.4 percent smaller than the increase in the control group.