In this section
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.
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
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
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.