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Evaluation of Program for Parents

  • Note: this is a past research project that is now complete. 


    The main aim of this evaluation was to investigate the effectiveness of a parenting program, "Parenting Adolescents: A Creative Experience" (PACE) as a method of reducing risk factors for youth suicide.

    Project description

    Parents were recruited both from "target" schools targeted for delivery of PACE groups and more generally from the community by advertising in the media and through venues such as community centres. Effectiveness was investigated firstly by examining pre- to post-program changes for families in 13 target schools. To evaluate the effectiveness of this strategy adolescents in Year 8 were asked to complete questionnaires in 13 target schools. Their parents also completed questionnaires by mail. Changes in these families were evaluated through comparison with matched samples in 15 "control" schools not targeted for delivery of PACE groups. Secondly, to investigate impacts on parents recruited from the community, questionnaires were completed by parents in a sample of PACE groups, and their adolescents were also mailed questionnaires.

    The main finding of this evaluation was that encouraging participation of target school parents in PACE groups appeared to be an effective method for reducing risk factors for youth suicide. Although the majority of parents in the target schools did not participate directly in PACE groups, positive changes were recorded across the school community. Teaching effective conflict resolution was an important objective of PACE. Parents in target schools reported reductions in the number of conflicts they were having with their adolescents and there was a trend for parenting confidence and satisfaction to increase. Parents in control schools did not experience these improvements. Perhaps as a result of these family changes, adolescents in PACE targeted schools demonstrated attenuation in a number of youth suicide risk factors, that continued to increase for adolescents in the control schools. Significant attenuation was reported for involvement in delinquent behaviours, involvement in drug use and for deterioration in feelings of family attachment (enjoyment of family). Trends toward attenuation were also observed for recent acts of deliberate self-harm. Findings support the strategy of integrating PACE into schools as a practical and effective method of impacting risk factors for youth suicide.

    Parents and adolescents entering the community PACE groups were different from the control school families on a number of measures. These parents were more disadvantaged (more were receiving welfare or benefits, fewer were home owners/purchasers, and more reported financial pressures). Their adolescents tended to be younger than the control school adolescents. Parents entering PACE reported greatly elevated rates of depression, lower parenting confidence and parenting satisfaction compared to the control school parents and the number of conflicts with adolescents was also greatly elevated. Over the course of the intervention parents participating in PACE demonstrated a number of improvements. Parenting confidence, satisfaction and communication improved, and depression and adolescent conflict reduced. However, adolescents in these families continued to show escalation on some youth suicide risk factors, and parents continued to report high levels of conflict with adolescents after the intervention. As there was no control group for these families it was not possible to measure the extent to which parent participation in PACE had slowed the rate of increase in these adolescent problems. These findings indicate that community dissemination of PACE is a useful method for recruiting families experiencing more severe problems and for providing vital support to parents. There was some evidence that this strategy may have reduced some youth suicide risk factors.

    In overview, dissemination of PACE in schools is an effective way of reducing risk behaviours associated with youth suicide at a classroom level. Parent recruitment at a community level effectively targets families experiencing adolescent problems, and involvement in PACE groups led to improvement on a number of measures. It is recommended that 1) PACE be supported for further dissemination within the initial context of a randomised controlled evaluation and 2) that funding should be provided to permit the present evaluation to be more extensively analysed and to enable further follow-up.


    Toumbourou, J.W. & Gregg, M.E. (1999) Evaluation Report of Program for Parents: A National Youth Suicide Prevention Project. Centre for Adolescent Health: Parkville, 34 pages.

    Gregg, E. Toumbourou, J. Bond, L., Thomas, L., Patton, G. 2000. Improving the Lives of Young Victorians in Our Community: A Menu of Services. Melbourne: Centre for Adolescent Health 

    Toumbourou, J. W., & Gregg, M. E. (2002). Impact of an empowerment-based parent education program on the reduction of youth suicide risk factors. The Journal of adolescent health : official publication of the Society for Adolescent Medicine31(3), 277–285.


    John Toumbourou