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Guiding Good Choices

Ages 9-14

Rating: Level 1


Guiding Good Choices (GGC), formerly known as Preparing for the Drug-Free Years, is a multimedia family competency training program that promotes healthy, protective parent–child interactions and reduces children’s risk for early substance use. The program targets families of middle school children (ages 9–14) who reside in rural, economically stressed neighborhoods.

GGC is based on the social development model, which theorizes that enhancing protective factors such as effective parenting practices will decrease the likelihood that children will engage in problem behaviors. The program is delivered in five weekly sessions specifically designed to strengthen parents’ child-rearing techniques, parent–child bonding, and children’s peer resistance skills. Children are required to attend one session, which concentrates on peer pressure. The other four sessions involve only parents and include instruction in four areas:

1. Identifying risk factors for adolescent substance use and creating strategies to enhance the family’s protective processes
2. Developing effective parenting skills, particularly those regarding substance use issues
3. Managing anger and family conflict
4. Providing opportunities for positive child involvement in family activities


Two evaluations have examined the effectiveness of the GGC program.

A 1997 study assessed specific parenting behaviors, including

1. The increase of proactive family communication
2. The reduction of negative family interaction
3. The improvement of observable relationship quality between parent and child

The study was conducted in six school districts in two economically stressed rural communities in the central Midwest, with 209 families completing the pretest assessment. The families were then randomly assigned into an intervention group (treatment) or a waitlist group (control). Videotaped observations of family interactions were conducted at he families’ homes both prior to (2 months before) and following the intervention (2–9 weeks afterward). Before each interaction, parents and children completed an independent questionnaire designed to identify issues leading to disagreements within the family. Family interactions were scored across 60 different dimensions intended to measure individual characteristics, relationships, group interactions, and problem-solving.

In 1999, evaluators conducted a comprehensive test of GGC through a randomized clinical trial. Families of sixth graders enrolled in 33 rural schools in 19 contiguous counties in a midwestern State participated in this test. Schools were selected on the basis of school free-lunch-program eligibility and community size (population 8,500 or fewer). Schools were assigned using a randomized block design, wherein blocks were formed on the basis of school size and the proportion of students residing in low-income neighborhoods. Within blocks, schools were assigned to GGC (n=221 families) or a minimal contact control group (n=208). The sample completing both pretests and posttests was composed primarily of dual-parent families (85.0 percent) and whites (98.6 percent). In 51 percent of the families, the target child for the intervention was female.


The 1997 assessment showed significant positive effects on increasing proactive communication between parents and children, decreasing the degree of mothers’ negative interaction with their children, and enhanced bonds and expressions of positive feelings (both general interaction and problem-solving).

The 1999 evaluation demonstrated positive effects for intervention parents and children. Compared with members of a control group, GGC parents have shown

  • Improvements in child management skills, for mothers and fathers
  • Increases in parent–child affective quality
  • Higher ratings of mothers’ self-efficacy

Compared with members of a control group, GGC children demonstrated

  • Significantly less alcohol initiation
  • Positive trends in reducing tobacco and marijuana use

Risk Factors


  • Favorable attitudes toward drug use/Early onset of AOD use/Alcohol and/or drug use
  • Life stressors
  • Poor refusal skills


  • Family management problems/Poor parental supervision and/or monitoring
  • Having a young mother
  • Low parent education level/Illiteracy
  • Poor family attachment/Bonding


  • Gang involvement/Gang membership
  • Peer alcohol, tobacco, and/or other drug use

Protective Factors


  • Healthy / Conventional beliefs and clear standards
  • High expectations
  • Perception of social support from adults and peers
  • Positive / Resilient temperament
  • Positive expectations / Optimism for the future
  • Self-efficacy
  • Social competencies and problem-solving skills


  • Effective parenting
  • Good relationships with parents / Bonding or attachment to family
  • Having a stable family
  • High expectations
  • Opportunities for prosocial family involvement
  • Rewards for prosocial family involvement


  • Presence and involvement of caring, supportive adults


  • Good relationships with peers
  • Involvement with positive peer group activities


  • SAMHSA: Model Programs
  • Department of Education
  • NIDA: Preventing Drug Abuse


Kosterman, Rick, J. David Hawkins, Richard L. Spoth, Kevin P. Haggerty, and Kangmin Zhu. 1997.“ Effects of a Preventive Parent Training on Observed Family Interactions: Proximal Outcomes From Preparing for the Drug-Free Years.” Journal of Community Psychology 25(3):277–92.

Park, Jisuk, Rick Kosterman, J. David Hawkins, Kevin P. Haggerty, Terry E. Duncan, Susan C. Duncan, and Richard L. Spoth. 2000. “Effects of the ‘Preparing for the Drug-Free Years’ Curriculum on Growth in Alcohol Use and Risk for Alcohol Use in Early Adolescence.” Prevention Science 1(3):125–38.

Spoth, Richard L., M.L. Reyes, Cleve Redmond, and Chungyeol Shin. 1999. “Assessing a Public Health Approach to Delay Onset and Progression of Adolescent Substance Use: Latent Transition and Log-Linear Analyses of Longitudinal Family Preventive Intervention Outcomes.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 67(5):619–30.


Prevention Science Customer Service Representative
Channing Bete Company
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South Deerfield, MA 01373–0200
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Bremerton, WA 98311
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