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A Culturally Sensitive Approach to Large-Scale Prevention Studies: A Case Study of a Randomized Controlled Trial With Low-Income Latino Communities

Abstract

In response to U.S. federal mandates to increase the presence of underrepresented populations in prevention research, investigators have increasingly focused on using culturally sensitive research practices. However, scholars have rarely discussed these practices in terms of a larger culturally sensitive framework. Further, while the literature has explored how culturally sensitive approaches can be employed in a variety of methods, there has been little examination of how to incorporate such approaches into experimental designs. In this paper, we explain how we incorporated a culturally sensitive framework in a cluster randomized field trial with over 3000 predominantly low-income Latino families, utilizing an intervention designed to improve social relations and enhance family functioning. We offer conceptual and practical examples to guide other researchers who want to adopt a similar approach in their research designs. In addition, we discuss the benefits of forging local partnerships throughout the research process to ensure respect for racial and ethnic minorities participating in social and behavioral experimental studies. We conclude with practical considerations for utilizing a culturally sensitive framework to advance prevention programs, policies, and practices among underrepresented groups in order to achieve the ultimate goal of addressing the traditional underrepresentation of racial and ethnic minorities in research.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    See Barrera et al. (2011) for four strategies for adapting evidence-based interventions to meet the needs of the targeted community. Additionally, see Castro, Barrera, & Holleran Steiker’s (2010) work detailing the potential issues and challenges in culturally adapting evidence-based interventions.

  2. 2.

    For empirical examples of within-group analyses from the larger study see Gamoran et al. (2012) and Valdez et al. (2013b).

  3. 3.

    For empirical examples utilizing the qualitative data collected from participants, see Shoji et al. (2014) and Valdez et al. (2013a).

  4. 4.

    Issues around fidelity, adaptation, and implementation continue to be a pressing concern in prevention research. We recognize the long-standing debates and the contention surrounding these issues. A central question among these debates is whether interventions maintain fidelity once adapted. Chambers and Norton (2016) argue, however, that the process of adapting an intervention, testing, and making further adaptions represents an incremental approach to science that is least helpful for quickly turning research into practice. The FAST program is flexible in that 60% of the components are adaptable to the local context and 40% are core and invariant to context. Our research team drilled down even further into the components of FAST to identify how the core components build and enhance parental social relationship that can be implemented in other schools without adoption of the FAST program (see Shoji et al., 2014).

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development [R01HD051762-01A2], the Institute of Education Sciences U.S. Department of Education [R305B090009], and the Ford Foundation. Many thanks to Drs. Adam Gamoran, Ruth N. López Turley, Monique Mills, and Sandy Magaña who read previous versions of the manuscript. The contents herein are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the supporting agencies. Authors’ names are in alphabetical order, with both contributing equally to the article.

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Correspondence to David E. Rangel.

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Rangel, D.E., Valdez, C.R. A Culturally Sensitive Approach to Large-Scale Prevention Studies: A Case Study of a Randomized Controlled Trial With Low-Income Latino Communities. J Primary Prevent 38, 627–645 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10935-017-0487-2

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Keywords

  • Latinos
  • Prevention research
  • Culturally-sensitive research
  • Randomized controlled trials
  • FAST