Deakin University

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Impact of an empowerment-based parent education program on the reduction of youth suicide risk factors

journal contribution
posted on 2002-09-01, 00:00 authored by John ToumbourouJohn Toumbourou, M Gregg
Purpose: To evaluate the impact of parent education groups on youth suicide risk factors. The potential for informal transmission of intervention impacts within school communities was assessed.

Methods: Parent education groups were offered to volunteers from 14 high schools that were closely matched to 14 comparison schools. The professionally led groups aimed to empower parents to assist one another to improve communication skills and relationships with adolescents. Australian 8th-grade students (aged 14 years) responded to classroom surveys repeated at baseline and after 3 months. Logistic regression was used to test for intervention impacts on adolescent substance use, deliquency, self-harm behavior, and depression. There were no differences between the intervention (n = 305) and comparison (n = 272) samples at baseline on the measures of depression, health behavior, or family relationships.

Results: Students in the intervention schools demonstrated increased maternal care (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] 1.9), reductions in conflict with parents (AOR .5), reduced substance use (AOR .5 to .6), and less delinquency (AOR .2). Parent education group participants were more likely to be sole parents and their children reported higher rates of substance use at baseline. Intervention impacts revealed a dose-response with the largest impacts associated with directly participating parents, but significant impacts were also evident for others in the intervention schools. Where best friend dyads were identified, the best friend’s positive family relationships reduced subsequent substance use among respondents. This and other social contagion processes were posited to explain the transfer of positive impacts beyond the minority of directly participating families.

Conclusions: A whole-school parent education intervention demonstrated promising impacts on a range of risk behaviors and protective factors relevant to youth self-harm and suicide.



Journal of adolescent health






277 - 285


Elsvier Inc.


New York, N.Y.







Publication classification

C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2002, Society for Adolescent Medicine