236941 Christian churches and the prevention of preadolescent violence in Puerto Rico: Regional leaders' perspective

Monday, October 31, 2011: 2:30 PM

Melissa Cristal Mercado-Crespo, MSc, MA , Department of Community & Family Health, University of South Florida, College of Public Health, Tampa, FL
Martha L. Coulter, DrPH MSW , Department of Community and Family Health, University of South Florida, College of Public Health, Tampa, FL
Carol A. Bryant, PhD , Florida Prevention Research Center, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL
Kay Perrin, PhD , Community and Family Health, University of South Florida College of Public Health, Tampa, FL
Randy Borum, PsyD , Department of Mental Health Law and Policy, Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute, University of South Florida, College of Behavioral and Community Sciences, Tampa, FL
Kristine Nodarse-Hernandez, MPH, CHES , Department of Community & Family Health, University of South Florida, College of Public Health, Tampa, FL
Background: Involvement in community-based church initiatives may serve as a distal protective factor for children's violence and risk behaviors. The purpose of this study was to assess Puerto Rico (PR) Christian denomination leaders' knowledge and perceptions about preadolescent violence, the role of congregations in its prevention, and the feasibility of different research methods to assess their members' perspectives on this topic.

Methods: Individual, semi-structured interviews with a sample (N=10) of regional PR Christian denominational leaders were conducted in Spanish; detailed notes were taken. Participants were voluntarily recruited through letters sent by email/mail/fax. Iterative analyses identified recurring themes.

Results: Participants described bullying as the most common type of PR preadolescents' violence. Education, modeling and relationships with positive adults (e.g., parents) are considered necessary to prevent preadolescents' violence. While willing to engage in faith- and non-faith efforts to prevent violence, congregations lack knowledge on the topic and its relevance. Interviews and focus groups were noted as the most efficient ways to engage congregations in research. Incentives are not necessary; refreshments are welcomed. Approval and recruitment conditions vary across denominations and congregations. Researchers' flexibility is essential.

Conclusions: While congregations may be willing to contribute in PR preadolescents' violence prevention efforts, their leaders and members' lack of knowledge on the topic serve as the main barriers for their involvement. Findings provide guidance in the development of public health/church collaborative (faith-based and faith-placed) research and intervention efforts in Puerto Rico to address this public health problem at the family- and community-levels.

Learning Areas:
Administer health education strategies, interventions and programs
Conduct evaluation related to programs, research, and other areas of practice
Diversity and culture
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
- Describe regional Christian denomination leaders’ perspectives on preadolescent violence in Puerto Rico. - Describe Puerto Rico Christian denominations' perceived role in preventing preadolescent violence. - Assess Puerto Rico Christian denomination leaders’ perspective on the feasibility of utilizing different research methods among their congregations.

Keywords: Violence Prevention, Adolescents

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I served as the principal investigator for the study described in this abstract. My role as PI included the development of the research design and instruments, as well as the study's implementation, data collection and analyses. This research was conducted as part of my doctoral training for the PhD Public Health degree (currently in progress) at the University of South Florida. Additionally, I am trained as an epidemiologist (MSc) and communications specialist (MA), and possess professional experience in qualitative and quantitative research among Puerto Rico and US Hispanic, adult and child populations. Furthermore, I have more than 15 years of experience working in diverse capacities among the Christian faith community in Puerto Rico.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.