To adapt or not to adapt: Paper finds Group Triple P has ‘social validity’ with African American fathers

shutterstock_219865159Practitioners should not hesitate to use Triple P with African American fathers, a paper co-authored by US researcher Patricia Kohl, of the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St Louis, concludes.

The study, published in Best Practice Mental Health, looks at the engagement of African American fathers in Group Triple P by comparing a group which was shown limited Triple P materials, including video resources, with a group who received the full intervention.

Conducted with the use of focus groups and interviews, the study found that providing fathers with only a small amount of information from program resources could actually be a barrier to potential participation – or at least perceptions of the value of the program.

Many of the fathers involved in the study spoke about initial concerns that program materials did not provide examples using African American fathers or urban settings similar to their own. However, fathers who participated in Group Triple P had a much more detailed perspective and could identify with many of the scenarios of daily life presented.

“For fathers who were exposed to the complete intervention, it appears to be a socially valid intervention,’’ Dr Kohl and co-author Kristen Seay, of the College of Social Work of the University of South Carolina, write. “However, when Triple P is used with this population, it is important to tailor examples to the circumstances of culturally diverse groups and to use language with which urban African American fathers relate.’’

The paper points out that since the early 1990s, the diversity of mothers involved in Triple P research has increased but this has not been the case for African American fathers who, until this study, remained almost completely absent from the Triple P evidence base.

The authors also describe how the highly segregated, disadvantaged urban communities in which African American fathers often must parent their children present very difficult circumstances such as high crime rates, drugs, gang violence, and few resources. But assumptions should not be made about a program’s social validity without actually asking the fathers, and those who work to support them, what they think.

“It is essential that practitioners or researchers considering the adaptation of an ESI (evidence supported intervention) to a new culturally diverse population do not make assumptions about how the target population views the intervention or about the fit between the population and the ESI,’’ the authors argue. “The voices of the target population, as well as those of other key stakeholders such as those providing services to the population, must be heard in this process (McKleroy et al, 2006).’’

Interviews with fathers from the two groups are highly contrasted in the paper. After watching a snippet of the Triple P DVD, several fathers across all five focus groups who did not participate in Triple P felt that they could not identify with several aspects of the intervention. One father said:

“When an urban neighborhood has a big crime rate, your kids don’t come home like that. Your mom ain’t cooking at home like that… . If you look at this program, you’d be like it’s not like that in this environment… . It’s a different environment.”

In contrast, fathers who received the complete intervention were far more positive. A number of examples were supplied in interviews of how they recognised themselves in the material and how they applied that information to their lives and saw a difference. One father said:

“I used to be more aggressive with them but now I am just calming down.”

After recognising his role in his child’s behavior for the first time, another said:

“After that session last week, I just went home and I just thought about everything that was going on, and I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t really so much as my kids that were giving me the problem—it was really myself that was causing all the problems.’’

The authors write: “That is a very powerful statement given that the parent is the change agent in BPT interventions. It is through changing the parent’s behavior that children’s behavior improves.’’

They conclude that more efforts are needed to understand the transportability of Triple P to African American fathers and to further explore the acceptability of Triple P by non-traditional service settings, such as father support agencies.