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A social norms campaign to promote protective parenting practices in two urban public housing developments

William F. Bacon, PhD1, Michele Bayley, MPH1, Haydee Morales, MA1, and Vincent Guilamo-Ramos, PhD2. (1) Planned Parenthood of New York City, 26 Bleecker Street, New York, NY 10012, 212-274-7211, william.bacon@ppnyc.org, (2) School of Social Work, Columbia University, 622 West 113th Street, New York, NY 10025

According to social norms theory, people tend to overestimate the amount of risky behavior and underestimate the amount of healthy behavior happening in their own communities. Such misperceptions may be harmful because they may cause some individuals to conform to a misperceived norm for unhealthy behavior. Social norms campaigns promote healthy behavior by publicizing the positive norms that actually exist within a community. It has been applied successfully to reducing binge drinking and sexual risk-taking. Working in a low-income community of color, PPNYC adopted this approach in the domain of parenting behavior in order to promote parenting practices that protect adolescents from sexual risk-taking. The program was implemented in partnership with four community-based organizations. We first conducted a series of focus groups with parents in two neighboring public housing developments, which are home to approximately 10,000 residents, primarily Latinos and African-Americans. We then conducted a survey of 450 randomly selected parents—300 in the target community and 150 at a comparison site. The survey included questions about respondents’ frequency of some 20 specific communication practices and parental monitoring strategies identified through the focus groups. We also inquired about parents’ perceptions of other community parents’ use of such strategies in order to identify misperceptions. Based on these data, two separate social marketing campaigns were developed in order to publicize the actual norms of specific parenting behaviors for which misperceptions had been identified. A follow-up survey will be completed in order to assess whether protective parenting practices increased or misperceptions of community norms decreased in the community receiving the social norms intervention.

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: Communication, Teen Pregnancy Prevention

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I have a significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.
Relationship: employment

Where do Youth Get Reproductive Health Information? Communication to Improve Behavior

The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA