Asian-American adolescent girls are approaching boys in their use of alcohol and drugs. A Californian study found that Korean-American high school girls were just as likely as boys to both drink and misuse alcohol (Nakashima & Wong, 2000). Based on a nationally representative sample, one study found that the binge drinking rate of Asian girls rose as substantially as that of Asian boys, increasing from 14.8% to 33.6% in 1 year (Hahm et al., 2004). Furthermore, among Asian adolescent sexual minorities, females were more likely to use a broader range of substances (Hahm et al., 2008).
Despite the proliferation of knowledge in substance abuse prevention, the experience of Asian-American adolescent girls remains extremely understudied. To fill this gap in research, we examined the efficacy of a substance abuse prevention program on a group of early adolescent Asian-American girls. Rooted in family interaction theory, the program was gender-specific, family-based, and delivered entirely online. We hypothesized that relative to control-arm girls, intervention-arm girls would show improvement at posttest on measures of substance use and other psychological and family variables.
The study used two-group pre-post randomized experimental design. Recruited from 19 states that had significant Asian populations, 112 Asian-American mother-daughter pairs were randomly assigned to either the intervention or control arm. Following the pretest measurement, control-arm pairs received no intervention, while intervention-arm pairs interacted with a 9-module, web-based drug abuse prevention program. Lasting about 45 minutes, each module had a unique theme that targeted risk and protective factors related to substance use among young adolescent girls, including body esteem, mood management, normative beliefs, self-efficacy, problem-solving, parent-child communication, parent-child attachment, parental monitoring, and family rules against substance use.
Girls had a mean age of 13.1 years (SD = 0.96), and their mothers' mean age was 39.6 years (SD = 6.20). Study arms did not differ in girls' age, immigration status, mothers' age and mothers' education. Relative to the intervention-arm girls, control-arm girls had better academic performance and more control-arm girls came from a single-parent household. Analysis of covariance indicated that at posttest, intervention-arm girls showed lower rates of 30-day alcohol use (p < .05), marijuana use (p < .05) and prescription drug misuse (p < .05) than the control-arm girls. Intervention not only increased parent-child communication (p < .01), family rules against substance use (p < .0001), parental monitoring (p < .01), resistance skills (p < .01), problem-solving (p < .01), and self-efficacy (p < .001), but also reduced girls' depression (p < .05). Interestingly, no intervention effects were found on normative beliefs and body esteem.
Conclusions and Implications:
This study takes an important first step in examining a web-based, gender-specific prevention program that involves Asian-American girls and their mothers. This strength-based program showed encouraging, positive outcomes. Future work needs to examine its long-term outcomes and replicate and strengthen the study results with a larger sample. Study findings should stimulate further exploration of gender-specific prevention approaches that employ the latest interactive technology, new media, and interactivity options with Asian-American adolescent girls and their mothers.