Iowa State University Receives $6.3 million Merit Award to Strengthen Families and Youth

February 18th, 2003

AMES, Iowa — A $6.3 million grant has been awarded to Iowa State University's Institute for Social and Behavioral Research to continue evaluating the effectiveness of programs to help families and communities prevent adolescent substance use and other problem behaviors.

Richard Spoth, the lead researcher on the project, received the award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The award—Method To Extend Research In Time, or MERIT— provides long-term support to scientists who have demonstrated exemplary research. It is one of only three MERIT awards ever granted by NIDA for a prevention research project.

Five years ago, NIDA provided the initial funding of $5.3 million for the ISU Capable Families and Youth project. The project has included the delivery and evaluation of both school-based and family-focused intervention programs designed for general populations, rather than for populations considered "at risk."

Early project evaluations indicate significant reductions in alcohol and marijuana use for students receiving the programs, compared to those not receiving intervention.

"The MERIT award will allow us to examine whether we can build on the benefits of earlier interventions," Spoth said. "We will follow these students to see whether the positive effects of these programs carry over into early adulthood."

The ISU Capable Families and Youth project began in 1997 and involved more than 1,500 families of sixth graders at 36 Iowa schools. The new grant will allow some of the schools to receive additional intervention programs designed to build upon the skills training students and their parents received in middle school.

The ISU Capable Families and Youth project is part of Project Family, projects directed by Spoth that offer research-based programs to support and strengthen families. "One of the most important aspects of this research is to develop strong, effective collaborations with ISU Extension, the schools and community members to deliver programs that work for families and youth," Spoth said.

ISU received a $21 million NIDA grant last year for another Project Family project called PROSPER, or PROmoting School-community-university Partnerships to Enhance Resilience. Spoth said results from these projects will help build a foundation for a national network of partnerships designed to advance programs directed toward family and youth well-being. These partnerships will emphasize the development of youth into "capable contributors" to their communities and workplaces, Spoth said.

The Institute for Social and Behavioral Research seeks to improve the health of rural and urban people through research to understand health risks, reduce risks and foster effective health policies and services. The institute is a unit of the Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station in the College of Agriculture. The institute also is affiliated with the Colleges of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Family and Consumer Sciences.


Richard Spoth, Institute for Social and Behavioral Research, (515) 294-9752

Barbara McManus, Ag Communications, (515) 294-0707
Teddi Barron, News Service, (515) 294-4778