When to Intervene: Elementary School, Middle School or Both? Effects of keepin' It REAL on Substance Use Trajectories of Mexican Heritage Youth

Flavio Marsiglia, Stephen Kulis, Scott T. Yabiku, Tanya A. Nieri, Elizabeth Coleman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

25 Scopus citations


This article presents the findings of a study exploring two questions: What age is most efficacious to expose Mexican heritage youth to drug abuse prevention interventions, and what dosage of the prevention intervention is needed? These issues are relevant to Mexican heritage youth-many from immigrant families-in particular ways due to the acculturation process and other contextual factors. The study utilized growth curve modeling to investigate the trajectory of recent substance use (alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, inhalants) among Mexican heritage students (N=1,670) participating in the keepin' it REAL drug prevention program at different developmental periods: the elementary school (5th grade), middle school (7th grade), or both. The findings provide no evidence that intervening only in elementary school was effective in altering substance use trajectories from 5th to 8th grade, either for licit nor illicit substances. Implementing keepin' it REAL in middle school alone altered the trajectories of use of all four substances for Mexican heritage youth. A double dose of prevention, in elementary and middle school proved to be equally as effective as intervening in 7th grade only, and only for marijuana and inhalants. The decrease in use of marijuana and inhalants among students in the 7th-grade-only or the 5th- and 7th-grade interventions occurred just after students received the curriculum intervention in 7th grade. These results are interpreted from an ecodevelopmental and culturally specific perspective and recommendations for prevention and future research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)48-62
Number of pages15
JournalPrevention Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 25 2011



  • Adolescents
  • Early intervention
  • Mexican Americans
  • Preadolescents
  • Substance use prevention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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