Master's Project Title:

Beyond ECFE: What do Parents of Teens Need? A Needs Assessment of Parents of Teens for the Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign

MCH Student:

Jennifer O'Brien

Date of Defense:

June, 2008


Objectives: Research has clearly demonstrated the important role of parents in helping teens practice healthy behaviors during adolescence.  Focus groups done in 2002 through the Positive Parenting for Adolescent Health (PPAH) project helped guide the work of what was to become the Shoulder to Shoulder (S2S) campaign, a social marketing campaign for parents of adolescents to help increase their ability to raise healthy teenagers through positive parenting practices.

Five years later, the current focus groups were to answer the following questions to help establish future direction:

  1. Describe a healthy and successful teenager.
  2. What are the first five words that come to mind when you think about parenting teens?
  3. As a parent, what works to motivate your own teenager to stay healthy?
  4. What challenges have you faced in motivating your teen to stay healthy?
  5. Are there changes you would like to make in the way you approach raising your teen? What would help you make chose changes?
  6. What would you like other parents to know about raising healthy, successful teens?
  7. Where are you most likely to receive information about parenting?
  8. Here is our campaign; this is the info we provide. Is this info helpful?  Is anything missing?

Methods:  Parents of teenagers from key demographic groups were included in the focus groups, regardless of their familiarity with the Shoulder to Shoulder campaign.  Mixed methods were used for this needs assessment, including both a structured survey and focus groups.  Five focus groups were conducted on four dates in 2007 and one in 2008, each comprised of 5 to 13 parents, for a total of 44 parents.  Parent participants included two suburban groups, one Latino group, one all-fathers group, and one urban African American group.

Results:  The survey demonstrated that the majority of parents thought that they had significant influence over their children’s drug and alcohol use (77%), smoking (74%), and sexual activity (64%), but only 505 of parents through that they had a lot of influence over their teenager’s diet and 33% their exercise habits.  Across the focus groups, there were many similar themes that emerged, suggesting a consensus among parents about the issues that are important in parenting teens today.  However, differences emerged in some of the focus groups possibly due to gender, race/ethnicity, and suburban/urban differences.

Conclusions:  Parental wisdom and insight has a lot to offer the Shoulder to Shoulder campaign as it currently stands.  While the current focus groups are very consistent with the original focus group findings, there were some differences and some areas that could be improved to better meet the needs of all parents.