The National Institutes of Health has awarded New York University Silver School of Social Work Professor Vincent Guilamo-Ramos and Visiting Professor James Jaccard two major grants for research on inner-city Latino and African American adolescent sexual behavior. Both projects will study teenagers and their families in the Bronx.
The first grant—$2.6 million over five years—will fund a large scale randomized clinical trial designed to prevent or reduce sexual activity of inner-city teens. The novel approach draws upon the collaborative efforts of social workers, pediatricians, and parents. Coordinated by social work interventionists, the study includes an initial intervention with adolescents and their mothers during annual physicals conducted at a community health care clinic. A social worker will meet with the teen’s mother and will share specific strategies for talking about delaying sexual behavior and reducing risk with their child. By the end of the research, Guilamo-Ramos hopes to further develop a practical, effective, and cost-efficient intervention that will reach large numbers of adolescents through health care settings. The research has important applied implications for social workers, pediatricians, and other adolescent health care providers.
A second grant—$3.1 million over five years—will examine how family influences the formation of romantic relationships in adolescents. Specifically, the research will explore partner selection and parental messages conveyed to youth about preferred partner characteristics. Using a prospective research design, Guilamo-Ramos and his research team will interview 16- to 18-year-old couples and their parents to forecast the couple’s sexual behavior. Jaccard, an internationally recognized expert in attitude change and decision-making as applied to young adolescents, will closely consult with Guilamo-Ramos’ research team. By shedding light on adolescent couples and familial influences of romantic partner formation the study will inform parent-based interventions designed to address adolescent couples and sexual risk behavior.
“The disproportionate impact of negative health outcomes associated with sexual behavior on Latino and African American youths demands approaches that address adolescents within the context of their families and integrate the prevention of adolescent pregnancy, HIV, and other STIs,” said Guilamo-Ramos. “While oftentimes not seen as part of the public health response to adolescent sexual risk behavior, social workers are uniquely positioned to deliver interventions and programmatic efforts that derive their effectiveness from a focus on key socio-cultural and contextual influences.”