Prevention Science

, Volume 19, Issue 4, pp 559–569 | Cite as

Using Facebook to Recruit Parents to Participate in a Family Program to Prevent Teen Drug Use

  • Sabrina OesterleEmail author
  • Marina Epstein
  • Kevin P. Haggerty
  • Megan A. Moreno


Despite strong evidence that family programs are effective in preventing adolescent substance use, recruiting parents to participate in such programs remains a persistent challenge. This study explored the feasibility of using Facebook to recruit parents of middle school students to a self-directed family program to prevent adolescent drug use. The study used paid Facebook ads aiming to recruit 100 parents in Washington and Colorado using marijuana- or parenting-focused messages. All ad-recruited parents were also invited to refer others in order to compare Facebook recruitment to web-based respondent-driven sampling. Despite offering a $15 incentive for each successfully referred participant, the majority of the screened (70.4%) and eligible (65.1%) parents were recruited through Facebook ads. Yet, eligibility and consent rates were significantly higher among referred (76.6 and 57.3%, respectively) than Facebook-recruited parents (60.0 and 36.6%, respectively). Click-through rates on Facebook were higher for marijuana-focused than parenting-focused ads (0.72 and 0.65%, respectively). The final sample (54% Facebook-recruited) consisted of 103 demographically homogeneous parents (female, educated, non-Hispanic White, and mostly from Washington). Although Facebook was an effective and efficient method to recruit parents to a study with equal to better cost-effectiveness than traditional recruitment strategies, the promise of social media to reach a diverse population was not realized. Additional approaches to Facebook recruitment are needed to reach diverse samples in real-world settings and increase public health impact of family programs.


(3–5): Social media Recruitment Parenting intervention Teens Drug use prevention 



This research was supported by a grant (R21DA039466) from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The funding organization had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, analysis, or preparation of data; or preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript. The content of this paper is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of NIDA.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all study participants. All procedures in this study were approved by and in accordance with the ethical standards of the University of Washington institutional review board and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Human and Animal Studies

This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Society for Prevention Research 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Social Development Research Group, School of Social WorkUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  2. 2.Seattle Children’s Research InstituteCenter for Child Health Behavior and DevelopmentSeattleUSA
  3. 3.Department of PediatricsUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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