Prevention Science

, Volume 20, Issue 6, pp 894–903 | Cite as

Effectiveness of Facebook Groups to Boost Participation in a Parenting Intervention

  • Marina EpsteinEmail author
  • Sabrina Oesterle
  • Kevin P. Haggerty


Although family-based prevention programs have been shown to be effective at reducing adolescent substance use, it is often difficult and costly to recruit and retain parents in programs administered in person. The current study tested whether program engagement and parenting practices could be improved by offering parents in a self-directed family program access to a private Facebook group. Parents of middle school children (N = 103) were recruited through paid Facebook ads to a 5-week self-directed teen substance use prevention program to be completed at home together by parents and their children. Two thirds of parents (N = 72) were randomly assigned to a moderated private Facebook group that provided a forum for parents in the study to interact with each other, and one third (N = 31) were randomized to use the intervention materials without additional support. Relatively few parents participated in the Facebook group and most did not find the experience useful. However, satisfaction with the program assessed 3 months after program completion was high among all parents and most parents engaged with the materials, irrespective of Facebook group assignment. Overall, parents reported significantly lower conflict and more household rules 6 months post-intervention compared to baseline. Parenting practices did not change more among those assigned to the Facebook group than among parents who used the materials on their own. The current findings suggest that providing opportunities for parents to interact online while participating in a self-directed family intervention may not help to increase engagement or improvements in parenting practices, particularly when few parents engage with each other.


Parenting intervention Facebook recruiting Parenting practices Facebook groups 


Funding Support

This research was financially 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.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. All activities associated with this study were approved by the University of Washington Institutional Review Board.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained for all participants in the study.

Human and Animal Studies

No work with animals was performed in this study.


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Copyright information

© Society for Prevention Research 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marina Epstein
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sabrina Oesterle
    • 1
  • Kevin P. Haggerty
    • 1
  1. 1.Social Development Research Group, School of Social WorkUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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