Abstract: Integrating Interpersonal Aggression Content into Substance Use Prevention Programming: A Preliminary Adaptation for Venezuelan Migrant Youth (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Integrating Interpersonal Aggression Content into Substance Use Prevention Programming: A Preliminary Adaptation for Venezuelan Migrant Youth

Thursday, January 12, 2023
Hospitality 2 - Room 444, 4th Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
James Hodges, MSW, Doctoral Student, Boston College, MA
Marcela Familiar-Bolanos, MSW Student, Boston College, MA
Maura Lester McSweeney, MSW Student, Boston College, MA
Estefania Palacios Pizarro, MSW, Social Worker, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Chile
Ivonne Calderon, MPH, Research Assistant, University of Miami, FL
Barbara Mendez-Campos, MSW, Doctoral Student, Boston College
Mariana Cohen, MSW, MPH, Project Manager, Boston University, MA
Patricia Andrade, Director, Raices Venezolanas, FL
Christopher Salas-Wright, PhD, Professor, Boston College, MA
Background and Purpose: Substance use and interpersonal aggression in adolescence have overlapping etiologies, and both have been shown to have negative repercussions across the life course. Interventions in early adolescence can successfully delay or prevent the onset of risk behaviors, with positive developmental consequences. One pragmatic strategy is to “bundle” interventions such that multiple risk behaviors are addressed in a single program. In our ongoing research, Venezuelan immigrant youth have emerged as a new and rapidly-growing population experiencing elevated alcohol risk and exposure to environmental stressors related to substance use and violence. To address the needs of this population, we worked with Venezuelan youth and community leaders to integrate evidence-based, culturally-concordant violence prevention content into an established substance use prevention program.

Methods: Our work built upon keepin’ it R.E.A.L (kiR), a culturally-grounded, evidence-based youth substance use prevention program that has been adapted for a variety of populations. kiR is designed to help youth to develop a suite of social and emotional skills to successfully resist substance use via the “R.E.A.L. strategies” (refuse, explain, avoid, leave). The adaptation took place in several steps. First, to integrate content on interpersonal aggression and culturally tailor kiR for the needs of Venezuelan youth, we conducted focus groups with immigrant youth (N = 27, 4-6 youth per group) in cities with growing Venezuelan populations in the United States. Second, qualitative data was thematically coded and used to inform a preliminary adaptation of kiR, which was named “kiR Venezolano.” Third, in close collaboration with Venezuelan youth advisory board members and community leaders, kiR Venezolano was further refined and then implemented—by bilingual social workers—with recently-arrived Venezuelan immigrant youth ages 11-14 (n = 15) to examine intervention feasibility.

Results: Several key results were identified in terms of focus groups, intervention development, and feasibility. Focus group data yielded three important findings: [1] immigrant youth viewed interpersonal aggression as a concern in their lives that was related to substance use risk; [2] youth emphasized the primacy of online social media and other electronic platforms in terms of the expression of aggression; and [3] youth desired assistance in navigating challenges related to in-person and online violence/aggression. Based on these findings, several intervention elements were developed. Specifically, we extended the logic of the R.E.A.L. strategies to situations which could potentially result in in-person or online aggression/conflict. Content was threaded throughout the 10-week intervention—including the production of five short, Spanish-language videos—and an aggression-specific module was developed. In terms of feasibility, it was determined that demand for kiR Venezolano programming is high among this population (based on ease of recruitment and enthusiasm among parents/youth) and, although additional modifications will be made, the program is broadly acceptable (based on qualitative feedback from participants and intervention facilitators).

Conclusions and Implications: Given the scope of the Venezuelan out-migration and the psychosocial/contextual risks experienced by Venezuelan youth, there is a pressing need for culturally-tailored interventions. kiR Venezolano shows promise as an evidence-based, culturally concordant prevention program to address the needs of Venezuelan migrant youth.