Cultural Adaptation of Parent Management Training for Michigan Latinos

  • Rubén Parra-Cardona, Ph.D.
  • Associate Professor, Department of Human Development and Family Studies
  • College of Social Science
Ruben Parra-Cardona

Rubén Parra-Cardona has participated in numerous research projects that have benefited from community support and cooperation. As an associate professor in the Marriage and Family Therapy Program within the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, he has devoted a significant amount of time and attention to the cultural adaptation of community-based interventions for Latinos.

Parra-Cardona firmly believes in mixed-methods approaches in community-based research. He has learned that recruiting and working with research participants is most successful when he collaborates with trusted local leaders from key community organizations such as those that encompass health, mental health, and religious practices of local residents.

His work is informed by the strengths of the Latino culture, one of which is a tendency to establish strong family connections that include extended relatives and friends. Despite the close-knit family social structure, Latinos experience intense contextual challenges such as historical discrimination, work exploitation, and community segregation. These factors can lead Latino children and youth to serious health and mental health problems including substance abuse, domestic violence, and delinquency.

Much of Parra-Cardona's research focuses on cultural adaptation of evidence-based interventions for dissemination in Latino communities, with a strong emphasis on parenting, fathering and Latino masculinity. His clinical experience includes working with Mexican-origin teen fathers in the justice system, adult drug trafficking probationers, victims of sexual abuse and violence, and juveniles adjudicated to the juvenile justice system.

"In the beginning of our program of research, it took five months to figure out how to get participants into focus groups. We learned that ... working with members of the targeted community was essential to earn the trust of Latino parents in order to reach implementation feasibility."

Rubén Parra-Cardona

One significant project led by Parra-Cardona consists of an investigation focused on the cultural adaptation of an evidence-based parenting intervention for Latino immigrant parents residing in Detroit. This project was originally funded by the National Institute of Mental Health ($684,000). Supplementary funding has been provided by MSU's Office of the Vice-President for Research and Graduate Studies (OVPRGS), College of Social Science, and Department of Human Development and Family Studies.

The original intervention being adapted is known as Parent Management Training- the Oregon Model (PMTOTM).

PMTOTM is an efficacious intervention developed over the past 40 years that evolved from research, theoretical frameworks, and intervention development led by Dr. Gerald R. Patterson and Dr. Marion S. Forgatch and their colleagues at the Oregon Social Learning Center and Implementation Science International, Inc. PMTO is designed to provide training for parents, grandparents, foster parents, single parents, and others to implement parenting skills that reduce the likelihood of children and youth engaging in serious behavioral problems.

"We know that PMTO is effective in the general Euro-American population. Our program of cultural adaptation research is primarily focused on adapting and disseminating the intervention among Latino populations," said Parra-Cardona.

Parra-Cardona is partnering with MSU Extension, the Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church of Detroit, and Southwest Solutions, a Detroit nonprofit, to implement and evaluate the outcomes of the intervention on the local Latino population.

Experience with prior research projects has made Parra-Cardona aware of the importance of building true collaborative relationships with community partners.

"In the beginning of our program of research it took five months to figure out how to get participants into focus groups," Parra-Cardona said. "We learned that understanding the history of oppression in the community and closely working with members of the targeted community was essential to earn the trust of Latino parents in order to reach implementation feasibility."

According to Parra-Cardona, the emphasis on community involvement has produced solid results. "Currently, we have a high retention rate of 94% because all key members of the research team that have direct contact with participants are Latino/Latina members of the local community. In addition, we are delivering an intervention that produces clear positive changes in the parenting experiences of participants, which in turn increases the participants' motivation to engage in the intervention."

"I have been working with children, adolescents, and families, predominantly Latino clients, for over four years. I was trained in the PMTO model, adapted for Latinos, and used it for three years with many families. The parents came to PMTO feeling much love for their children and having the best of intentions, but lacking the basic skills to be effective parents. The majority of these parents embraced the PMTO model, despite their many difficulties, and showed enthusiasm, hope, and motivation in guiding their children to become successful. I loved working with this model, and hope it will be used widely in this community," said Florys Gonazales-Meridith, counselor with the Children, Youth and Families Center of Excellence at Southwest Solutions.

Parra-Cardona is currently working with community leaders to find ways to ensure the long-term sustainability of the project. "I am inviting community leaders to explore alternatives to achieve the long-term sustainability of the project so this intervention can remain in this community for future generations, without depending on individual grants for its sustainability."

  • Written by Carla Hills, University Outreach and Engagement
  • Photograph courtesy of Rubén Parra-Cardona, College of Social Science

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