Youth Development Program Participation and Changes in Help-Seeking Intentions
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An important effect often overlooked in prevention-based programs is the possibility that positive experiences with a youth development program before youth problems arise may influence families’ willingness to seek mental health support in the future. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of one such youth development program on caregivers’ future intentions to seek help for mental health issues. One hundred twenty-four adolescents (M age = 11.98 years; 87.4 % female; 86.6 % African-American) and 135 caregivers (M age = 37.49 years; 82.1 % female; 80.7 % African-American) participated in a 6-week youth development program that included physical activity and a curriculum consistent with typical youth development programs (self-expression, drug awareness, sexual education, and conflict resolution skills). Prior service utilization, program satisfaction, and initial help-seeking intentions were included as predictors of intentions for seeking help after program completion. Families’ willingness to seek help for child mental health trended towards an increase post-program but did not change in a statistically significant way. Contrary to expectations, child and parent program satisfaction did not mediate any change in help-seeking. This study illustrates that satisfaction with an initial low-dose youth development program does not necessarily bolster most families’ interest in accessing future services, but could be a pathway to future services for some. Future evaluations should continue to assess the long-term effects of program participation to better understand causal mechanisms of shifting attitudes towards seeking more help.
KeywordsYouth development programs Program evaluation Help-seeking Service utilization Satisfaction
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