Research Methods in Family Therapy

By Douglas H. Sprenkle; Fred P. Piercy | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 8
Bridging Research
USING ETHNOGRAPHY TO INFORM CLINICAL PRACTICE

CAROLYN Y. TUBBS
LINDA M. BURTON


BACKGROUND

In a recent public service announcement, The Enforcer, aired on national television, a 30-something African American mother uses a hard glare and firm tone to keep her teenage son in check. Her son laments to a friend on the telephone, “I don't know why she is tripping. It was only weed. I only tried it once.” She then appears in his bedroom door and states, “You are grounded! That means no phone!” Her demeanor throughout the short vignette conveys that she means what she says, and she says what she means: “No weed!” A disembodied announcer's voice states, “She doesn't love being tough. She's tough because she loves.” The exasperated teen grimaces each time she reminds him with the “No weed!” mantra that he is incorrectly engaging in privileges (e.g., playing video games) that have been removed. “She is the Enforcer, and she knows that she can make a difference,” the announcer asserts. Her vigilance and comments indicate that she is serious about enforcing the parameters of his grounding. Unbeknownst to the mother, the fruit of her determined parenting presence manifests itself when her son, standing near bleachers in an empty high school stadium with peers, flatly refuses an offer of a marijuana cigarette while citing his grounding as the reason. His familiar grimace and abrupt refusal highlight the lesson he has learned from his dealings with the Enforcer. The announcer's voice summarizes the primary message of the vignette. “The Enforcer: She's more than a hero—she's a good mom. You are more powerful than you know” (Office of National Drug Control Policy, 2003a).

The seeds of this message were sowed in a survey conducted by the Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (Office of National Drug Control Policy, 2003b). The results of the study indicated that non-substance-abusing adolescents who listened to their parents' antidrug messages were less likely to engage in substance use than those who did not listen. The results also indicated that mothers were more likely than fathers to deliver antidrug messages. Just as the antidrug coalition transformed this finding into a

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