Evaluation of a Big Brothers/Big Sisters program for children of alcoholics

Joseph Thomas Keenan, University of Pennsylvania


This study examined the effects of a Big Brothers/Big Sisters (BB/BS) mentorship program on children of alcoholics. Subjects included 50 children aged 7 to 11 in rural Maine, determined to be eligible for BB/BS services, and identified as at risk of abusing alcohol and other substances on the basis of having an alcoholic family member. Pretest-posttest measures included the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL; Achenbach & Edelbrock, 1983), the Adjustment Scales for Children and Adolescents (ASCA; McDermott, Marston, & Stott, 1990), the Self-Perception Profile for Children (SPPC; Harter, 1985), and the Family Environment Scale (FES; Moos & Moos, 1986). Adult-child interactions (Checkers games) were videotaped and coded to estimate the quality of the relationship, using Interaction Process Analysis (IPA; Bales, 1950). The frequency and duration of contact with adult volunteers is reported, as are the types of activities in which participants engaged. Case studies are provided which describe in detail the nature of the BB/BS mentorship relationship. Pretest-posttest scores were analysed using repeated measures ANOVA to test for within-subjects change in group scores over a 6-month and a 12-month period. Several significant changes were found, after Bonferroni corrections were applied to reduce the likelihood of Type I error. On the CBCL, scores on the Internalizing factor and on the Delinquency subscale improved over a 12-month period. On the ASCA, scores on the Hypoactive syndrome showed significant improvement from one school year to the next. Scores on the Personal Growth dimension on the FES showed significant improvement, as well. A system (IPA) was tested and found to be reliable for the purpose of coding videotaped interactions between BB/BS participants. A test of the system's validity employing semantic differential procedures (Osgood, Suci, & Tannenbaum, 1957) yielded mixed results: Judgements of the quality of the match relationship appeared to depend heavily on the activity level of the participants, as hypothesized, though raters showed no preference for high levels of emotional affect. Overall results indicate that the BB/BS intervention holds considerable promise for improving the psychological functioning of at-risk children. Efforts to ascertain its effectiveness, by means of controlled research designs, are thus encouraged.

Subject Area

Academic guidance counseling|Social work

Recommended Citation

Keenan, Joseph Thomas, "Evaluation of a Big Brothers/Big Sisters program for children of alcoholics" (1992). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9235161.