The Strengthening Hawaiian Families Program

Lana, a Hawaiian single mother, signed up for the Strengthening Hawaii's Families Program at her school. She was concerned that her three elementary school children were becoming too aggressive like the dad, she divorced because of physically abusive behaviors towards her and them. The program increased her confidence as a parent and reduced the kids acting out and defiance. As a family, they enjoyed the luau and the graduation party on the beach.

The Coalition for Drug-free Hawaii has revised the SFP to be more culturally appropriate for Hawaiian Asian/ Pacific Islanders. The Strengthening Hawaii Families (SHF) Program has a 20-session curriculum which emphasizes awareness of family values, family relationships, and communication skills. A 10 session family and parenting values curriculum precedes the 10 session SFP family management curriculum to increase parental readiness for change. The revised curriculum covers topics such as connecting with one another, caring words, generational continuity, culture, communication, honesty, choice, trust, anger, problem-solving, decision-making, and stress management. An audio and video tape accompany the new curriculum manuals.

An independent evaluation was conducted by a researcher at the University of Hawaii (Kameoka, 1996). The original 14-session SFP was implemented in four sites, mainly schools and community centers. It was compared to the 20-session, culturally-revised SHF program implemented in nine sites. The measurement battery was culturally modified by altering words and expressions not common in Hawaii and included several different assessment instruments.

Results. Unfortunately, attrition was high with only 48% completing most of the session. Of course, the program was much longer now with 20 session. Attendance was also low. The change to a more values-based curriculum versus a social learning/social skills theory-based family skill training curriculum appeared to have weakened the attendance, and the program effectiveness. This program was interpreted by the evaluator as an educational program designed for non-clinical populations. Participants receiving professional services were eliminated from the data analysis, yet they may have benefitted the most.

Both the original SFP program and newly, revised, culturally-tailored Strengthening Hawaii's Families (SHF) programs attained the goal of strengthening family relationships and resulted in significant improvements in family conflict, family cohesion, and family organization. Only the original SFP resulted in statistically significant improvements in attitudes and skills in rewarding positive behaviors, reduced physical punishment, and parental depression compared to the culturally-modified SHF. The original SFP was also more effective in reducing the children's, hostility, depression, anxiety, somatization, interpersonal problems, phobias, and paranoia. The SHF program impacted only hostility and paranoia in addition to depression. Substance use decreased in SFP participants for parent, sibling and child use, but increased significantly for SHF in child use and non-significantly for parent use.

Why the original SFP was more effective than the culturally-tailored SHF is not clear. Possibly, the shift from a behavioral to values-based program decreased emphasis on behavior change. In addition, four sessions were eliminated from the 14 original sessions. Having the families focus on family values for 10 session prior to the behavioral parent training, may have not appealed to the parents. They are already convinced that families are important as evinced by their signing up for the program. Mainly they are wanting to learn new skills and had to wait ten weeks for this parent training. The cultural modifications are, of course, very useful in recruiting and maintaining families. Based on these results, the program developers in Hawaii have modified their SHF program to be more similar in length and content to the original SFP.

Kameoke, V.A. (1996). The effects of a family-focused intervention on reducing risk for substance abuse among Asian and Pacific-Island youths and families: Evaluation of the strengthening Hawaii's families project. Honolulu: University of Hawaii, Social Welfare Evaluation and Research Unit.

Kameoka, V.A., & Lecar, S. (1996). The effects of a family-focused intervention on reducing risk for substance abuse among asian and pacific-island youths and families: Evaluation of the strengthening Hawaii’s families project. Available from the Coalition for a Drug-Free Hawaii, University of Hawaii.

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