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ACT Enhanced Parenting Intervention to Promote
At-Risk Adolescents’ School Engagement
Larry Dumka, Ph.D.
Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics
ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY
Association for Contextual Behavioral Science
World Conference 12
June 19-22 - Minneapolis, MN
Acknowledgements

Co-Investigators Nancy Gonzales, Anne
Mauricio, our research team staff and
RAs

U.S. National Institute for Mental Health

Families who participated
Social Problem

School disengagement during transition
to middle school

Ensuing mental health problems
•
Universal family level intervention
•
3 components
• Parent training
• Adolescent goal setting and
coping
• Family interaction session
•
9 after-school sessions + 2 home
visits
•
RCT focused on low-income
Mexican American families
Results from Randomized Control Trial and Follow-up*

Decreased externalizing and internalizing symptoms in middle
and high school; decreased mental disorder diagnoses in late
adolescence

Delayed substance use in middle school; decreased binge
drinking in late adolescence; decreased alcohol and substance
abuse disorder in emerging adulthood

Higher grades in middle school; decreased high school
dropout

Mediation analyses identified core components
*Gonzales, Dumka et al. (2011) Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology; Gonzales et al. (2014)
Prevention Science; Jensen et al. (2014) Journal of Child Clinical and Adolescent Psychology
Challenge
Increase uptake of intervention
•
Redesign to optimize Bridges
•
Reduce resource cost shorten to 4 sessions with
technological augmentation
•
Increase impact - emphasize
parent and teen selfregulation (psychological
flexibility)
Theory of Intervention
BRIDGES
Strengthens
Competencies
during Middle Sch
Reduces Risky
Middle School
Outcomes
Risk Taking
1. Effective
Parenting
2. Youth Coping
3. School
Engagement
4. Family Relations
Substance use
Deviant peers
Early Sex initiation
Mental Health
Symptoms
Externalizing
Internalizing
School
Disengagement
SELF REGULATION
To impact interrelated cognitive, emotional,
biological interactional systems
Prevents Problems
in Late
Adolescence &
Young Adulthood
Alcohol abuse
disorder
Substance abuse
disorder
Mental disorders
Risky sexual behavior
School dropout
Question?
What are the core parenting skills that are
needed to support adolescents’ school
engagement and prosocial development?
Parenting Component - Skills Targeted
1.
CONNECT (positive reinforcement, effective
listening)
2.
WATCH (monitor teen’s social contexts, school
engagement)
3.
LIMIT (opportunities for risky and antisocial
behavior; structure prosocial behavior)
4.
CONTAIN CONFLICT
What’s different when children become teens?
ACT Enhancements to Bridges

Values, Committed Action
– Own that this is critical time and they matter
– Guided imagining re: desired parenting legacy
– Set change goals re: CONNECT, WATCH, LIMIT
– Home practice commitments

Present Moment, Self as Context
– Breath focus

Acceptance, Defusion
– Avoiding controlling communication
– Supporting teen flexibility (problem solving)
– Non reactivity to teen negative behavior and provocation
Breath Focus
Provided rationale
 Breath focus practice (3-4 min; 1-2
times/session) with reflection on:

– Desired legacy with teen
– How teen sees you now
– Experiences of receiving appreciation
– Non acceptance of teen, controlling
– Observing self (self-as-context)
– When anger is present
– On using core skills
Questions for you
Given what you know about ACT and
parenting adolescents, what else would
you recommend to ACT enhance a 4
session Bridges program?
1. What rationale would you use to
motivate present moment/mindfulness
practice?
2. What would you do to optimize
committed action?