Averting Risky Teen Behavior Through Parent-Power

September 01, 2002

CUSSW faculty member Vincent Guilamo-Ramos is developing ways for parents to talk to their kids about smoking, sexual promiscuity and other risky behaviors. Will the kids listen? You bet. He says its all in the style — and the timing.

Guilamo-Ramos works with middle school students (grades 6-8) in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the South Bronx community, where he grew up.

“We’re in the first year of a five-year study involving 3,000 Latino and African American adolescents in the South Bronx,” he says, adding that the research is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We’re also interested in reducing HIV; one of the school districts we’re working with has one of the highest HIV rates in the nation.”

Guilamo-Ramos and his team are developing programs that can be used in a school-based health clinic setting, to encourage parents to talk to their children. Among the components of the project — a how-to manual and a network of parent volunteers who maintain close phone contact.

“My research focuses on ways in which parents influence what adolescent children do, what’s effective to prevent sexual risk behavior or discourage using tobacco and other drugs,” he says.

“It’s not just ‘talk to your kids’ — it’s how you talk to your kids. We look at the best timing, content, frequency, and duration.”

He’s also committed to the community in which he grew up — and where he now works. “It’s the largest Puerto Rican community in the city. I visit sites there several times a week, developing collaborations and partnering with folks to resolve problems.

“My students are my research team. They do data collection, data entry, analysis, and manuscript development — all aspects of research. I also try to bring young people from the community into projects, to expose them to possibilities beyond the South Bronx.”