1. Family Matters

Family Matters

Program Goals

Family Matters is a family-directed program that aims to reduce tobacco and alcohol use among 12- to 14-year-olds.


Target Population

The target population is 12- to 14-year-olds.

Program Components

The intervention is delivered through four booklets mailed to the home and through follow-up telephone calls by health educators. The booklets contain lessons and activities designed to motivate families to participate in the program and encourage families to consider characteristics related to adolescent substance use. Booklet content covers communication skills, parenting styles, attachment and time together, educational encouragement, conflict resolution, availability of tobacco and alcohol in the home, family rules about child use of tobacco and alcohol, and insights into peer and media influences.


Four booklets are successively mailed home to parents, along with token participation incentives of a Family Matters–imprinted pencil, button, balloon, or magnet. After each mailing, health educators phone parents to encourage them to complete the book and any included parent–child activities, and to answer questions. Each booklet contains information based on behavioral science theory and research and includes participant activities. The booklets, in order of delivery, are:

  • Why Families Matter, which describes the program and encourages participation.

  • Helping Families Matter to Teens, which considers general family factors that influence adolescent alcohol and tobacco use, such as communication skills and parenting styles.

  • Alcohol and Tobacco Rules Are Family Matters, which emphasizes behavior-specific factors that families can influence, including the availability of tobacco and alcohol in the home and family rules about substance use among children.

  • Nonfamily Influences That Matter, which deals with nonfamily influences on adolescent substance use, such as the media and friends who use. This resource also reviews the main points of the program.

The mother or mother surrogate is asked to participate in the program and to involve additional adult family members. Adult family members are asked, in addition to reading the booklet, to complete activities with the adolescent that exercise key program content areas such as communication skills and rule setting. Some of the reading material and activities are for adult family members only, while other parts of the program are for the adult family members and the adolescent. The health educators who conduct follow-up calls after each booklet is completed never interact directly with the adolescent as part of program delivery. Health educators can be called from within the implementing organization or surrounding community (school nurses, teachers, college students, and business professionals are all candidates).

Key Personnel

The program contact is usually the adolescent’s mother or mother surrogate. Health educators conduct follow-up calls. Health care educators can be paid staff or volunteers.

Intervention ID

12 to 14


Study 1

Substance Use

Bauman and colleagues (2002) reported statistically significant program effects for smoking and drinking and suggest that Family Matters reduced the prevalence of both behaviors. The effect sizes at 3 and 12 months after the program were modest (0.19 and 0.17 for smoking at 3 and 12 months, respectively, and 0.32 and 0.17 for alcohol use at 3 and 12 months, respectively). The authors indicate these results compare favorably with the average effect sizes found for the most effective school-based drug curricula studies with randomized experimental designs.

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