Partnering with Community Stakeholders: Engaging Rural African American Families in Basic Research and the Strong African American Families Preventive Intervention Program
Murry, Velma McBride, Brody, Gene H., Journal of Marital and Family Therapy
The Center for Family Research has implemented the first family-community preventive intervention program designed specifically for rural African American families and youths. Basic information garnered during a decade of research in rural African American communities formed the theoretical and empirical foundations for the program, which focuses on delaying the onset of sexual activity and discouraging substance use among youths. The Center's researchers have formulated future directions for engaging rural families in basic research and preventive intervention programs.
In this article we describe the procedures and methods that investigators at the Center for Family Research implemented during a decade of basic longitudinal research in rural African American communities. We highlight ways in which our work has been guided by creating research partnerships with representatives of these communities. In addition, we highlight a family-community based program for rural African Americans, The Strong African American Families Program (SAAF), that was informed by feedback from our community research partners, as well as by the theoretical and empirical findings that emerged from our research on rural African American families. First, however, we briefly describe the foundation of the Center for Family Research and the work conducted there.
ORIGIN AND MISSION OF THE CENTER FOR FAMILY RESEARCH
The Center for Family Research was established in 1992 when the first author joined the University of Georgia faculty and formed a partnership with the second author to conduct systematic investigations of African American family life. These investigations included (a) studies of normative family processes among married-parent and single-parent rural African American families; (b) the formation of longitudinal developmental models describing the family and community contextual processes that are associated with academic competence, social competence, self-regulation, and psychological adjustment among rural African American children and adolescents; (c) the identification of protective factors that moderate the effects of adversity on child development, helping youths to avoid negative developmental trajectories; and (d) the application of findings from this research program to the development of the SAAF preventive intervention. These studies were guided by the Center for Family Research mission, which is to advance the well-being of rural families through research-based educational and intervention programs. Center researchers accomplish these goals by identifying processes that are linked with family and child competence through the influence of marital/intimate partner interactions, parenting processes, parent-child relationship quality, and social support from extended kin and the community. Systematic investigations of children and families in rural America are rare; even rarer are studies focusing on the competencies and strengths of African American families. Furthermore, no empirically derived prevention programs designed to inhibit the early onset of sexual activity, unsafe sexual practices, and the use of alcohol and other substances currently are available to rural African American families. Thus, findings from our work extend the knowledge base on rural African American families and provide a theoretical basis for future preventive interventions for this population. Many of our findings may have implications for understanding normative functioning among African American families in general; however, rural African American families, particularly those residing in the southern United States, rear children in contexts that differ significantly from those in urban areas.
DEMOGRAPHIC CHARACTERISTICS OF SOUTHERN, RURAL, AFRICAN AMERICAN COMMUNITITES
The families who participate in our research and preventive intervention live in small towns and communities in rural Georgia in which poverty rates are among the highest in the nation and unemployment rates are above the national average (Dalaker, 2001). …