1. Staying Connected with Your Teen

Staying Connected with Your Teen

Program Theory

Staying Connected with Your Teen (SCT) (formerly Parents Who Care) is a seven-session universal prevention program that addresses substance abuse and problem behavior in adolescents. The program is based on the social development model (Catalano and Hawkins, 1996), which is shaped by social control theory, social learning theory, and differential association theory. The social development model contends that children are socialized through four key processes: 1) opportunities, 2) involvement, 3) skills, and 4) rewards. Children need opportunities and skills to engage in prosocial activities. They also need to be rewarded for engaging in productive or prosocial activities with positive peers. Bonding with prosocial individuals inhibits deviant behavior.

Program Goals

SCT builds upon identified protective factors (such as association with prosocial peers and family bonding) by teaching parents and children strategies that will guide them through a more positive social development process. Parents learn how to provide their children with opportunities to contribute to their family and to use reward and recognition strategies to encourage bonding with their children. Children learn how to develop skills to participate in activities and opportunities. Families also learn how to reduce risk factors that can lead to negative social development. Parents attain more effective family management practices by increasing their parental supervision and enforcing consequences for misbehavior. By targeting children at specific developmental periods, SCT aims to decrease problem behaviors such as substance abuse and delinquency. Specifically, the program aims to achieve the following:

  • Enhance parent awareness of risk and protective factors involved in the development of adolescent problem behaviors
  • Enhance parent awareness of normal adolescent behavior and development
  • Strengthen family management practices
  • Establish parental commitment to strengthen family bonds and establish healthy beliefs and clear standards for behavior
  • Provide teens with an opportunity to be involved in the learning process with their parents
  • Teach parents and teenagers skills for resisting social influences to engage in problem behaviors

Target Population

SCT was developed for youth, 12 to 14 of age, as they transition into high school.

Program Activities

SCT consists of either five 2-hour sessions (when used in a workshop setting) or seven discussion units (when used as a self-paced home-study program). The program comes with a 117-minute video separated into 18 sections, as well as a 108-page family workbook with chapters that accompany each session. Each discussion unit focuses on a different core lesson, and chapters proceed in the same fashion. The lessons are:

  1. Roles: Relating to your teen,
  2. Risks: Identifying and reducing them,
  3. Protection: Bonding with your teen to strengthen resilience,
  4. Tools: Working with your family to solve problems,
  5. Involvement: Allowing everyone to contribute,
  6. Policies: Setting family policies on health and safety issues, and
  7. Supervision: Supervising without invading.

Sessions are between 2 and 2 ½ hours long and are generally administered 1 week at a time for a total of 7 weeks. There is some flexibility in the administration of the program, but it is recommended that all sessions be completed within 10 weeks of starting the program. The program is also available as a self-administered home-study program with phone follow-up. Families receive the DVD and workbook and complete the activities within 10 weeks. They receive written instructions about how to use the workbook and DVD and a checklist of 61 key activities to complete as a family. A family consultant contacts the family once a week by phone to record completed activities, motivate families to use the materials with their teen, and help them problem solve implementation into their daily lives.

Intervention ID

12 to 14


Study 1

Favorable Attitudes About Substance Use

Haggerty and colleagues (2007) found statistically significant reductions in favorable attitudes about substance use for teens in the self-administered (SA) condition at the eighth grade posttest assessment compared to teens in the control condition. In other words, teens in the SA condition felt significantly less positive or accepting of substance use than they did before participating in the program. However, no effect was found for teens in the traditional parent group–administered (PA) condition compared to teens in the control condition.

Results at the 24-month follow-up (when teens were in 10th grade) continued to be statistically significant for teens in the SA condition compared to teens in the control condition. Moreover, a statistically significant effect was detected for teens in the PA condition, compared to teens in the control condition.

No significant interaction effects were detected for race. This indicates that reductions in favorable attitudes toward drug use were the same for both African American and European American teenagers.

Delinquent and Violent Behavior

No statistically significant differences were found for delinquent or violent behavior for either treatment condition, compared to the control condition immediately after the program or at the 24-month follow-up. However, separate race and gender analyses using the 24-month follow-up data revealed a statistically significant positive effect for African American teens in the SA condition, compared to the control condition. In other words, African American teens in the SA condition showed a statistically significant reduction in violent behavior compared to African American teens in the control condition. This effect was not detected in the PA condition.

Initiation of Substance Use or Sexual Activity

There were no statistically significant differences found for initiation of substance use or sexual activity for either treatment condition, compared to the control condition at posttest or the 24-month follow-up. However, marginally significant differences were found by race for both treatment conditions. The chances of initiating substance use or sexual activity were reduced by almost 70 percent for African American teens in the SA condition and by 75 percent in the PA condition, compared to African American teens in the control condition.

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