Portrait of ASU faculty member Stephen Kulis.

Researchers receive $3M NIH grant to study parenting programs for Indigenous urban dwellers

By

Mark J. Scarp

A new federal grant is supporting Arizona State University researchers’ efforts to learn how well culturally grounded parenting programs help prevent harmful behaviors among urban American Indian adolescent children.

A five-year, $3 million grant from the National Institutes for Health is funding the study, which is administered by the university’s Global Center for Applied Health Research. It continues earlier ASU research on a culturally grounded parenting intervention for urban American Indian families called Parenting in 2 Worlds (P2W).

“P2W is designed to help American Indian families in cities draw on their cultural values to help keep their adolescent children safe from substance use, risky sexual behavior, depression and suicidality,” said sociology Professor Stephen Kulis, the study’s principal investigator and Global Center for Applied Health Research acting director. “This new study will be the first to test the effectiveness, cultural relevance and keys to sustainability of parenting programs like P2W across urban American Indian communities in different regions, each with different migration histories and tribal backgrounds.”

Kulis said the project represents the fruition of nearly two decades of work at the Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center and Global Center for Applied Health Research in collaboration with nonprofit urban Indian centers like the Phoenix Indian Center.

The research team includes Stephanie Ayers, of both the Global Center for Applied Health Research and the Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center, Associate Professor Monica Tsethlikai, of ASU’s T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics, and Patricia Hibbeler, former chief executive officer of the Phoenix Indian Center.

Kulis said a “large and rapidly growing majority” of American Indian families currently live in urban areas. He said the Global Center for Applied Health Research and Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center, both based at the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, developed P2W as a culturally grounded and evidence-based parenting program for urban American Indian families through a long-standing collaboration between the Phoenix Indian Center and ASU researchers.

The study plans to involve 720 families of American Indian adolescents living in four metropolitan areas of the country: Northeast (Buffalo/Niagara, New York), Midwest (Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota), Mountain (Denver) and Southwest (Phoenix).

“The study relies on the expertise of nonprofit centers serving urban American Indian communities to deliver culturally grounded prevention programs and will explore how these centers can collaborate to expand the reach and impact of their family, youth and cultural services,” Kulis said.

Kulis said the project represents the first cross-site, multiregional trial of a culturally grounded parenting intervention designed specifically for urban American Indians.

“It will advance critical knowledge on community prevention interventions for an underserved group severely affected by health disparities and establish whether urban Indian centers and their communities can readily employ P2W to strengthen urban American Indian families and promote the behavioral health of their youth,” Kulis said.

The research will also “provide a foundation for advancing knowledge about prevention interventions in urban American Indian communities that have different migration histories and tribal compositions,” Kulis said.

The National Institutes of Health grant number for the project is 1R01DA056417.