This study focused on the buffering effects of Adults in the Making (AIM), a family-centered preventive intervention, on the link between life stress and increases in risk behaviors among 347 rural, southern African Americans as they left high school.
The AIM program was designed to buffer the negative impact of life stress on rural African Americans and to prevent increases in risk behavior by increasing the provision of family based buffering processes, such as emotional and instrumental support, vocational coaching and advocacy, and racial socialization. The curriculum is informed by studies of protective processes among rural African Americans, demonstrating that, despite their challenging circumstances, many rural African Americans display positive psychological adjustment and low levels of risk behavior across adolescence. Various studies indicate that emotional and instrumental support from caregivers contribute to low levels of internalizing problems, externalizing problems, and substance use among rural African American adolescents. Of the 347 participants in the current study of AIM's effects, 174 were assigned to the prevention condition and 173 to a control condition. Emerging adults reported risk behaviors at pretest, posttest (7 months after pretest), and long-term follow-up (10 months after posttest). Increases in risk behaviors were significantly greater among emerging adults in the control condition who experienced high stress levels than among those in the prevention condition who experienced equally high stress levels. These results support the stress-buffering hypothesis that the study was designed to test. (publisher abstract modified)