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Strengthening Families Program: For Parents and Youth 10–14

Ages 10-14

Rating: Level 1


The Strengthening Families Program: For Parents and Youth 10–14 (SFP 10–14) is an adaptation of the Strengthening Families Program. Formerly called the Iowa Strengthening Families Program, the program aims to reduce substance use and behavior problems during adolescence through improved skills in nurturing and child management by parents and improved interpersonal and personal competencies among youth. SFP 10–14 consists of seven 2-hour sessions for parents and youths. The parents and child attend separate skill-building groups for the 1st hour and spend the 2nd hour together in supervised family activities. Four booster sessions are designed to be used 6 months to 1 year after the end of the first seven sessions to reinforce the skills gained in the original sessions. Youth sessions generally concentrate on strengthening goal setting, communication skills, behavior management techniques, and peer pressure. By contrast, parents generally discuss the importance of nurturing while simultaneously setting rules, monitoring compliance, and applying appropriate discipline. Topics include developing appropriate rules, encouraging good behavior, using consequences, building bridges, and protecting against substance abuse.


SFP 10–14 has been evaluated in several different studies. In the principal study, 33 public schools in the Midwest were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: 1) the SFP 10–14, 2) Preparing for the Drug-Free Years (PDFY), or 3) a minimal-contact control condition. Families in the control condition received a set of four parenting guidelines written by Cooperative Extension Service personnel. Selected schools were located in rural communities with populations of fewer than 8,500 and a relatively high percentage of low-income families participating in the school lunch program. The final sample included 404 families (124 PDFY families, 141 SFP 10–14 families, and 139 control families). In addition to a posttest, follow-up data collections were completed about 1½, 2½, and 4 years after pretesting. Assessments included in-home videotapes of families in structured family interaction tasks, in-home interviews that included scales from standardized instruments such as the SCL–90–R, and commonly used measures such as the National Survey of Delinquency and Drug Use.


The evaluation demonstrated that both youths and parents who attended the program showed significant positive changes. Youths who participated in the study had less substance use, fewer conduct problems, and better resistance to peer pressure. These positive changes were indicated by both delayed onset of problem behaviors and more decreases in these behaviors compared with the control group during the 4 years following the study pretest. Results indicated that program parents were better able to show affection and support and set appropriate limits for their children.

Risk Factors


  • Anti-social behavior and alienation/Delinquent beliefs/General delinquency involvement/Drug dealing
  • Early onset of aggression and/or violence
  • Favorable attitudes toward drug use/Early onset of AOD use/Alcohol and/or drug use
  • Poor refusal skills


  • Family history of the problem behavior/Parent criminality
  • Family management problems/Poor parental supervision and/or monitoring
  • Parental use of physical punishment/Harsh and/or erratic discipline practices
  • Pattern of high family conflict
  • Poor family attachment/Bonding

Protective Factors


  • Healthy / Conventional beliefs and clear standards
  • Perception of social support from adults and peers
  • 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


Molgaard, Virginia K., Richard L. Spoth, and Cleve Redmond. 2000. “Competency Training—The Strengthening Families Program: For Parents and Youth 10–14.” Juvenile Justice Bulletin. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Redmond, Cleve, Richard L. Spoth, Chungyeol Shin, and Heidi S. Lepper. 1999. “Modeling Long-Term Parent Outcomes of Two Universal Family-Focused Preventive Interventions: 1-Year Follow-Up Results.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 67(6):975–84.

Spoth, Richard, Max Guyl, Linda Trudeau, and Catherine J. Goldberg–Lillehoj. 2002. “Two Studies of Proximal Outcomes and Implementation Quality of Universal Preventive Interventions in a Community–University Collaboration Context.” Journal of Community Psychology 30 (5):499–518.


Catherine Webb
Partnerships in Prevention Science Institute
Iowa State University
2625 North Loop Drive, Suite 500
Ames, Iowa 50010
Phone: (515) 294-1426
Fax: (515) 294-3613
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