Stephen Kulis: Research Projects in Brief


·       keepin’ it REAL in Mexico: An Adaptation and Multisite RCT” (2015-2020)

·       Sponsor: National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Drug Abuse (R01 DA038657)

·       Co-Investigator with Principal Investigator Flavio Marsiglia

·       Purpose: Sharp increases in substance use rates among youth in Mexico have elevated substance abuse prevention as a national priority, but there are few school-based universal prevention programs to choose from that are culturally grounded, empirically tested, and shown to be efficacious in Mexico. This study aims to address this gap by adapting, implementing, and testing the keepin’ it REAL (kiR) prevention intervention in Mexico’s three largest cities: Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Monterrey. kiR is a legacy model program for middle school students, shown to be efficacious and cost-effective in reducing substance use among large multi-ethnic and Latino samples in the USA and other countries. The study has a bi-national research team, leverages their expertise in developing and adapting kiR and builds upon a series of feasibility studies across Mexico which showed that kiR’s core elements are applicable there.

·       Activities: During Phase 1, students and teacher-implementers in three schools—one from each of the cities—provided feedback about the original kiR curriculum and identified culturally and contextually relevant scenarios and examples of youth substance use and strategies for resisting substance offers. The adaptation effort ensures cultural applicability to contemporary urban Mexico and its youth culture, while preserving fidelity to core elements of the original kiR. In Phase 2, the efficacy of the culturally adapted Mexican version of kiR, relative to the original version of kiR and to a control condition, is being tested through an intent-to-treat analysis in a randomized controlled trial with over 5,000 7th grade students in 36 middle schools, 12 from each city. Primary outcomes are substance use behaviors, attitudes toward substance use, and use of effective drug resistance strategies. The adapted curriculum incorporates gender specific experiences with drug offers and appropriate drug resistance strategies in the Mexican context that may impact the youths’ risk of substance use and their responsiveness to prevention programs. In light of rising violence in Mexico, a secondary aim of the study is to investigate how youths’ perpetration, victimization, and witnessing of violence may moderate the efficacy of kiR in Mexico. The study aims to create knowledge relevant to efficacious prevention approaches for Mexican-heritage youth on both sides of the US-Mexico border, and add to knowledge on how to execute collaborative, cross-national, translational prevention intervention research.


·       Urban American Indian Youth Substance Use: Ecodevelopmental Influences (2012-2017)

·       Sponsor: National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, center grant award 2P20 MD002316 NIMHD

·       Principal Investigator: Stephen Kulis

·       Purpose: Using ecodevelopmental theory, this research addresses gaps in knowledge of how contextual influences operating at peer, family/parental, school, and neighborhood levels interact to influence substance use among urban American Indian (AI) youth in Arizona.  The study documents the relative influence of factors at these different levels using a comprehensive model, tests how positive and negative family influences interact with those at other levels, and examines how they may operate differently in subgroups of urban AI youth defined by gender, grade level, and heritage that is AI-only or mixed AI and non-AI heritage. 

·       Activities: The research uses a 2012 state-wide survey of youth substance use with large numbers of urban AI youth (N=3,450) in 8th, 10th, and 12th grade.  The study will create essential knowledge about how to target and deliver prevention interventions comprehensively by identifying substance use risk and resiliency factors facing urban AI youth and their families. The project is a collaboration between ASU researchers and the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission.


  • “Using CBPR to Adapt a Culturally-grounded Prevention Curriculum for Urban American Indian Parents,” 09/30/2010 – 07/31/2015
  • Sponsor: National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIH-NIMHD 1R01MD006110)

·        Principal Investigator: Stephen Kulis

  • Purpose: American Indian (AI) families now living in urban areas experience disproportional health disparities associated with substance abuse and risky sexual behavior but few evidence-based prevention approaches exist to prevent health disparities among this rapidly growing population.  Family disruption, stresses related to poverty and rural-to-urban migration, and loss of cultural and social connections frequently operate as pathways to adverse health outcomes among AI families. By strengthening family functioning (parental involvement, family support, parental monitoring, and parent-child communication), a parenting intervention can help parents strengthen culturally relevant parenting skills that promote their children's well-being and reduce their children’s risk of substance use and risky sexual behavior. The aims of the study are to create and test a culturally grounded parenting intervention for urban AI families through a modification of an existing prevention program, Families Preparing the Next Generation (FPNG).  The adaptation will employ a Cultural Adaptation Model for adapting programs for new target populations in ways that increase cultural fit while maintaining fidelity to core components of the original program.  The resulting prevention intervention will address the needs of an under-served group severely affected by health disparities, strengthen families and help them to avoid familial and individual dysfunction, and advance knowledge on effective translational research strategies for adapting prevention interventions for ethnically diverse families.
  • Activities: The parenting program was adapted, piloted, evaluated, culturally validated, revised accordingly, and tested in a randomized control trial (RCT) involving 600 families (300 intervention, 300 control) in partnership with the three largest urban Indian centers in Arizona.  CBPR methods were used to adapt the intervention, using feedback from focus groups of urban AI parents, AI professionals and prevention experts, and through close collaboration between the designers of the original intervention and staff of the urban Indian centers, thus increasing the capacity of those centers to provide future parenting interventions. In addition to testing the intervention's efficacy, we assess whether and how the participants’ connection to native culture and identity influences the intervention’s effects, and whether changes in overall family functioning lead to specific parenting practices directed at reducing their children’s risk behaviors. 


  • “Leveraging Bio-Cultural Mechanisms to Maximize the Impact of Multi-Level Preventable Disease Interventions with Southwest Populations,” 09/22/2017-04/30/2022 (U54 MD002316).
  • “Health Disparities Research at SIRC: Cultural Processes in Risk and Resiliency,” 09/30/2007 – 05/31/2012 (2P20 MD002316); 06/01/2012 – 01/31/2017 (1P20 MD002316)
  • Principal Investigators: Flavio Marsiglia, Stephen Kulis, Gabriel Shaibi, Sonya Vega Lopez, James Herbert Williams
  • Sponsor: National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIH-NIMHD)
  • Purpose: A renewable grant establishing SIRC as a Center of Excellence for health disparities research. 
  • Involves faculty and graduate research assistants from Sociology, Family and Human Development, Social Work, Psychology, Education, Justice Studies, Communications, Life Sciences and Nursing.
  • Activities include: four large scale randomized trials of prevention interventions; demonstration and pilot research projects; community needs assessment through a Community Advisory Board comprised of representatives of over 20 state and local agencies; international Scientific Advisory Board; mentorship program for early career faculty fellows and doctoral student interns; methodological and other support for grant proposal production; and regular meetings of a Data Analysis Clinic, and Advanced Statistical Analysis Work Group.
  • Selected studies: 
    • Urban American Indian Youth Substance Use: Ecodevelopmental Influences: secondary data analysis study of a state-wide Arizona survey of risk and protective factors for substance use at the individual, family, peer, school and neighborhood levels focusing on the majority of American Indians who now live in urban areas (PI: S. Kulis)
    • A Parent-Child Approach to Substance Abuse Prevention for Mexican American Youth: effectiveness trial of a dual parent and child substance use prevention intervention (PI: F. F. Marsiglia)
    • Every Little Step Counts: randomized control trial of a culturally grounded diabetes prevention program for obese Latino youth (PI: G. Q. Shaibi)
    • Living in Two Worlds: adaptation of the keepin’ it REAL model program of substance use prevention for urban American Indian youth, followed by a field trial of its efficacy (PIs: E.F. Brown and S. Kulis)
    • Families Preparing the Next Generation: development of a parent component to enhance the efficacy of keepin’ it REAL (F. Castro and F. Marsiglia, PIs).
    • Guanajuato, Mexico study of public health issues among youths in alternative high schools in rural and poor areas with little access to secondary education
    • Project Jalisco: a pilot test of the effectiveness of keepin’ it REAL in public middle schools in Guadalajara, Mexico.
    • Project Guatemala City: a pilot test of the effectiveness of keepin’ it REAL in public and private middle schools in Guatemala.
    • Latin American immigrant youth in Spain: cultural and social integration of youth from immigrant families
  • “Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Consortium,” 2002-2007
  • Sponsor: National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH-NIDA)
  • Purpose: A five-year research infrastructure development grant to increase capacity at ASU for culturally grounded prevention research.

06/01/2012 – 01/31/2017. National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (2P20MD002316, F. Marsiglia, P.I.), $6,307,851. Roles: Principal Investigator for the center grant’s “Research Core”; Principal Investigator for the center grant main study, “Urban American Indian Youth Substance Use: Ecodevelopmental Influences.”


  • Sponsor: National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH-NIDA)
  • DRS-3 (1997-2000) involved a randomized trial with over 7,000 Phoenix 7th and 8th graders testing the effectiveness of three culturally tailored and locally specific versions of a drug prevention curriculum, keepin' it REAL (Refuse, Explain, Avoid, Leave). The curriculum was developed through school ethnographies, teacher input and video production by local kids to identify and convey culturally grounded ways that kids successfully resist drug use. The curriculum is now a SAMSHA model program that has been adopted by school districts across the USA.
  • NEXT GENERATION (2001-2003) funded additional secondary data analysis of the DRS-3 data to identify social contexts that influence the effectiveness of the keepin' it REAL intervention, such as students' ethnicity and its cultural "match" to the implementer and content of the intervention, the students' acculturation status, and the social context in which they live, such as neighborhood crime and the ethnic, immigrant and socio-economic composition of their schools and neighborhoods.
  • DRS-4 (2003-2008) funded a new implementation of the keepin' it REAL intervention in Phoenix area schools with additional content addressing acculturation and developmental issues, and comparing interventions timed at 5th versus 7th grades.


  • Sponsors: National Science Foundation, Spencer Foundation, American Sociological Association (ASA), Pacific Sociological Association (PSA)
  • SDR STUDIES: Purpose: Secondary data analysis of longitudinal data from the NSF sponsored Survey of Doctoral Recipients, tracking the careers of around 60,000 U.S. doctoral scientists/engineers. Data on individual academic and career history, marital/familial status, publications, salary, rank and tenure was matched to characteristics of their academic employers and science disciplines to identify the sources of gender and racial inequities in academic recruitment and promotion. Addresses theoretical issues of:
    • the operation of internal and external labor markets in academia;
    • the role of institutionalized discrimination and statistical discrimination in occupational gender/racial segregation;
    • geographical constraints on women's academic careers;
    • doctoral labor supply and demand factors in the institutional and geographic locations of Black scientists.
  • EEO-6 STUDIES: Secondary data analysis of federal Equal Employment Opportunity reports from a complete census of U.S. colleges, using data on the racial and gender distribution of all college/university employees and recent hires. Addresses organizational factors in the degree of occupational segregation within academia of women/men and Blacks/Whites into different job levels (administrative, faculty, support, clerical, service).
  • WOMEN AND MINORITY SOCIOLOGISTS:  Sponsored by the ASA and PSA and using a national sample of sociology departments, studies addressed gender inequities in top ranked departments, "double jeopardy" for minority women sociologists, and organizational factors in gender and ethnic/racial inequities for faculty and graduate students in Sociology.


  • NATIONAL SURVEY OF FAMILIES AND HOUSEHOLDS Secondary data analysis of a nationally representation sample of about 10,000 households, examining the [non-] reciprocated services among older respondents and their adult children, and their impact on the quality of the relationship in working and middle class families.   
  • INFORMAL & ORGANIZATIONAL SUPPORT OF THE ELDERLY Secondary data analysis of National Institute on Aging data from older parents and their child "helpers," addressing the kinds of help received from informal and formal sources and the bases of parent-child solidarity in later life.