Helping Caregivers of Adolescents Reduce their Teens’ Health Risk Behaviors

Two women sitting and facing each otherThe Community Preventive Services Task Force (Task Force) recently published its findings on the effectiveness of person-to-person Interventions targeted to parents and other caregivers to improve adolescent health. Their findings and the Community Guide evidence reviews on which they are based are published in the March 2012 American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Task Force Findings

Based on a Community Guide systematic review of the scientific evidence, the Task Force recommends person-to-person interventions intended to modify adolescents’ risk and protective behaviors by improving their caregivers’ parenting skills based on sufficient evidence of effectiveness in reducing adolescent risk behaviors. These interventions are conducted either face-to-face or by telephone and occur outside of clinical settings.

About the Interventions

Target audience The review addresses interventions that focus on “caregivers” of adolescents, because many children do not grow up in parent-headed households. A caregiver is a parent or other person, such as a foster parent or grandparent, who has parenting responsibilities for the adolescent. The interventions target either the caregiver alone or the caregiver and the adolescent.

Purpose The interventions aimed to modify adolescents’ health risks, protective behaviors and outcomes by improving their caregivers’ parenting skills.

Setting and delivery The review focuses on person-to-person strategies not those delivered by Internet or paper conducted in non-clinical settings. Examples include classroom sessions, one-on-one caregiver training by an intervention specialist or telephone contact coupled with written materials.

Scope The parenting interventions address a variety of health topics, such as violence, suicide, sexual practices, teen pregnancy, motor vehicle safety, use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. The focus ranges from general parenting skills to those that address specific teen health behaviors. Some strategies educate caregivers in multiple areas, for example, teens’ risk and protective behaviors, and techniques to improve parent-child communication or monitoring of teens’ behaviors.

Teen Health Outcomes The outcomes assessed in this review cover a range of adolescent risk and protective behaviors linked to health outcomes. Examples of behaviors assessed include smoking, carrying a weapon and condom use.

Real-World Relevance of the Findings

Improving the parenting skills of adolescents’ parents and caregivers can affect a broad array of teen risk and protective behaviors and yield improvements in adolescent health. Adolescence is a life stage when many young people make critical choices about risky behaviors, such as whether to use alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs, engage in sex, wear seatbelts, drive safely, and engage in other activities that can impact their health. Given that adolescents who have one risky behavior are more likely to engage in multiple risky behaviors, improving their caregivers’ parenting skills can have a cross-cutting impact on a variety of teens’ risk and protective behaviors.

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The Task Force and Community Guide

The Community Preventive Services Task Force (Task Force) is an independent, nonfederal, unpaid group whose members are appointed by the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Task Force bases its findings and recommendation on systematic reviews of the scientific literature. These reviews are conducted, with oversight from the Task Force, by scientists and subject matter experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in collaboration with a wide range of government, academic, policy, and practice-based partners. The reviews and the Task Force findings and recommendations are compiled in the Guide to Community Preventive Services (Community Guide)

Visit all All Community Guide Topics to learn about Community Guide systematic reviews and resulting Task Force findings on 20 topics.

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