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Strengthening the Bonds of Chicano Youth and Families



Strengthening the Bonds of Chicano Youth (El Proyecto de Nuestra Juventud) is a comprehensive, multilevel, community-based, and culturally appropriate program designed to meet the prevention needs of rural Chicano youth in Central Arizona who demonstrate high-risk characteristics of substance abuse. The program is rooted in a family-oriented approach that is based on Mexican-American culture, values, and principles. The project was conceived and implemented by the Pinal Hispanic Council, a minority nonprofit organization based in Eloy, Arizona.

The target population served by the project included 450 high-risk youth (323 female, 127 male) in three age groups (9–11 years old, 12–14 years old, and 15–16 years old), who were residents of low-income housing and students at the elementary, junior high, and senior high schools. Availability of alcohol and drugs, attitudes favorable to drug use, negative peer influences, and poor family management were the risk factors used for referral to the project interventions. During the project, 330 families and 60 service providers were reached.

Based on the theoretical framework of Hawkins and Catalano, the interventions addressed four life domains: family, individual/peer, school, and neighborhood/community. The project uses a combination of culturally appropriate interventions for youth and families. Family interventions include camps (campamentos) and informal talks (platicas). Youth interventions include peer support groups and workshops. Community interventions include a homework center, a mural project, and a theatre project.

The project also included the following interventions:

  • Youth/peer support groups served as social and life skills training for fourth to ninth graders to address topics such as conflict resolution; life skills; youth town hall; sexuality; gangs; mental health; teenage pregnancy; and alcohol, tobacco, and other drug prevention.
  • Cultural assessment applied a cultural rating scale to measure each youth’s cultural awareness and ethnic loyalty to both Mexican and American culture.
  • Youth enterprise concentrated on planning and developing a business project as a legitimate means of earning an income.
  • Barrio Focus recruited community members to work as servidores or promotores to deliver messages and information to the community through local channels and means. Parent/sibling contracts were added during the second year of the program to increase youth participation and family commitment.

The evaluation indicated that the project succeeded in improving family communication and bonding. Youths and families reported increased communication, trust, and a sense of belonging and bonding. Another significant finding was an increase in awareness of substance abuse issues and a decrease in substance abuse. Increased family communication and bonding had a significant positive impact in reducing potential substance abuse by the children.

The major significant findings include the following:

  • A significant difference was found comparing pretest and posttest scores for the experimental group on family relations, but not for the control group.
  • The level of drug use decreased for the experimental group, with significant differences for alcohol and other drugs.
  • A significant difference was also found in the experimental group regarding alcohol use by family members. Family member drinking was reported to decrease among the experimental group and to increase among the control group.
  • There was a substantial increase in parental drug knowledge in several areas.

Risk Factors


Antisocial/delinquent beliefs

Conduct disorders (authority conflict/rebellious/stubborn/disruptive/antisocial)

General delinquency involvement

High alcohol/drug use


Antisocial parents

Child maltreatment (abuse or neglect)

Delinquent siblings

Family violence (child maltreatment, partner violence, conflict)

Having a teenage mother

High parental stress/maternal depression

Low parental attachment to child/adolescent

Parental use of physical punishment/harsh and/or erratic discipline practices

Poor parental supervision (control, monitoring, and child management)

Poor parent-child relations or communication


Frequent truancy/absences/suspensions; expelled from school; dropping out of school

Low achievement in school

Poor school attitude/performance; academic failure


Availability and use of drugs in the neighborhood


Association with antisocial/aggressive/delinquent peers; high peer delinquency

Peer alcohol/drug use


National Gang Center: Promising program


Ralph Varela, C.M.S.W.
Pinal Hispanic Council
712 North Main Street
Eloy, AZ 85231–2037
Phone: (520) 466-7765
E-mail: [email protected]


Varela, Ralph. 2001. Cultural Competent Prevention Program for At-Risk Chicano Youth. Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration/Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (SAMHSA/CSAP) Report. Washington, DC: SAMHSA, CSAP, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Date Created: April 7, 2021