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By on March 4, 2010

What is the role of parents to prevent sexual victimization?

Typically when I think of sexual violence prevention efforts for college students I think of school based education and attempts to shift the college culture.  I typically do not consider the role of parents. A recent study ePublished in Prevention Science examines a parent based intervention to prevent college women’s sexual victimization. The logic of the program is that by having mothers talk to their daughters about reducing heavy drinking will lead to less heavy drinking which, in turn, reduces sexual victimization when the daughters are in college.

The authors conclude this effort was effective at reducing incidence of sexual violence for the generally white middle class population they investigated.

Of course this type of efforts does not do anything to address the men who rape and the sexual assaults that take place without women involved in heavy drinking. And I still have questions about the path analysis methodology and combining different groups together.

But this study made me think about the role of family and parents in prevention efforts.

What do you think?

The full citation and link to the abstract for the article follow.

Preventing College Women’s Sexual Victimization Through Parent Based Intervention: A Randomized Controlled Trial.

Testa M, Hoffman JH, Livingston JA, Turrisi R. Prevention Science 2010; ePublished February 19, 2010

Click here for the article on the journal’s web site

(Copyright © 2010, Springer Science+Business Media)

A randomized controlled trial, using parent-based intervention (PBI) was designed to reduce the incidence of alcohol-involved sexual victimization among first-year college students. The PBI, adapted from Turrisi et al. (2001), was designed to increase alcohol-specific and general communication between mother and daughter. Female graduating high school seniors and their mothers were recruited from the community and randomly assigned to one of four conditions: Alcohol PBI (n = 305), Enhanced Alcohol + Sex PBI (n = 218), Control (n = 288) or Unmeasured Control (n = 167). Mothers in the intervention conditions were provided an informational handbook and encouraged to discuss its contents with their daughters prior to college matriculation. Consistent with hypotheses, PBI, either standard or enhanced, was associated with lower incidence of incapacitated rape in the first year of college relative to controls. Path analysis revealed support for a hypothesized indirect effects model, by which intervention increased mother-daughter communication, which predicted lower frequency of first semester heavy episodic drinking, resulting in lower rates of alcohol-involved sexual victimization in the first year of college.

One response to “What is the role of parents to prevent sexual victimization?”

  1. From my point of view as a researcher and programmer in the area of sexual violence, I believe that too often people think that if we just get rid of the alcohol problem on college campuses that rape will go away. This is much too simplistic of an idea. However, equally damaging to our field is the notion that any effort to reduce rape that doesn’t ask men to rape less isn’t worth doing. Such a perspective can allow political slogans to get in the way of real prevention. The latter is my primary worry with the blog above. If we really want to end rape, it will take a comprehensive approach, based on the best data we can find, and not rooted in flimsy assumptions or slogans that sound good to some but don’t do much more than get a nod of agreement during a conference presentation. Ending rape will require using a combination of methods shown effective by the measured changes shown through the most sophisticated research available. This study moves us a major leap forward. I applaud Testa and her colleagues for their sophisticated approach, longitudinal design, and very promising results. This is great news to all of us who are looking for one more way to lower the incidence of rape on college campuses and we should share it with parents of college students across the country. Thank you, Testa, Hoffman, Livingston, and Turrisi for showing us one more way to make a difference.

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