Parenting stress is a well-documented barrier to youth engagement in community-based substance use treatment. The current project aims to develop and evaluate a mobile health parenting stress intervention for caregivers of justice-involved youth, a population with high rates of substance use and low rates of treatment engagement.
Justice-involved youth exhibit high rates of substance use and mental health symptoms, yet few receive treatment during detention or community re-entry. Once released into the community, caregivers must facilitate youth's treatment engagement, mobilizing significant resources and facing many barriers (e.g., transportation, mistrust) to do so. Parenting stress, which is heightened during youth detention and community reentry, is associated with greater perceived barriers to treatment, less youth therapeutic change throughout treatment, and premature treatment dropout. Addressing parenting stress improves youth treatment engagement and outcomes among youth exhibiting antisocial behavior, yet given the many barriers to treatment, novel approaches to intervention are needed; mobile health (mHealth) technology is one promising approach. Caregivers of justice-involved youth and system stakeholders are interested in mHealth treatment and mHealth addresses instrumental barriers (e.g., transportation) to treatment. Advances in technology and community engaged research allow for active stakeholder collaboration in mHealth application development, with no technological expertise required, through participatory informatics; caregiver involvement increases the likelihood the intervention will be relevant and efficacious. The purpose of this mixed-methods K23 study is to 1) develop a mHealth parenting stress intervention using participatory informatics; 2) assess the feasibility and acceptability of the participatory informatics approach and the intervention; 3) evaluate the intervention's preliminary efficacy in reducing parenting stress and increasing youth engagement in substance use or dual diagnosis treatment post-detention through a pilot randomized controlled trial; and 4) understand systems-level factors that could influence eventual system adoption and sustainability.