Strengthening Families Program

Program Goals

The Strengthening Families Program (SFP) is a family skills program originally developed and tested in 1983 with 6- to 12-year-old children of parents in substance abuse treatment. The goals of SFP are to increase family strengths and resilience and reduce risk factors for problem behaviors in high-risk children, including behavioral, emotional, academic, and social problems. SFP builds on protective factors by improving family relationships, parenting skills, and the youth’s social and life skills.


Target Population

Since its initial development and use in 1983, culturally modified and age-adapted versions (for 3- to 5-year-old preschoolers and 6- to 12-year-old elementary school children) have been developed and used with high-risk families of diverse backgrounds from various community settings. SFP has also been used as a universal primary prevention intervention with families in schools, churches, and communities.


Program Theory

SFP is based on cognitive–behavioral social learning theory and family systems theory.


Program Components

SFP is a parenting and family skills training program that consists of 14 consecutive weekly skill-building sessions. Parents and children work separately in training sessions and then participate together in a session practicing the skills they learned earlier. Two booster sessions are available for use at 6 months to 1 year after the primary course. Children’s sessions concentrate on setting goals, dealing with stress and emotions, communication skills, responsible behavior, and how to deal with peer pressure. Parent sessions concentrate on setting rules, nurturing, monitoring compliance, and applying appropriate discipline.

Intervention ID

3 to 16

No Effects

While study 1 produced some evidence that indicates the program’s effectiveness, the study assessed only parent-reported outcomes. Study 2 included both parent- and student-reported outcomes. Although both sources of data produced reasonably reliable measurement in study 2, parent and child reports of similar behaviors were not highly correlated, and parent reports generated more positive effects than child reports. Overall, the child reports yielded important new information about potential negative effects of the family skills training condition.


Study 1

Adherence to SFP Intervention

Among the intervention schools from the Spoth and colleagues (2002) study, eight schools were classified as higher adherence, and three schools were deemed lower adherence.


Parenting Skills

Targeted parenting behaviors of the total Strengthening Families Program (SFP) intervention group were more improved than those of control families at both posttest (p<.001) and at 1½ years postbaseline follow-up (p<.01).


At posttest, targeted parenting skills families attending either the higher adherence (p<.001) or lower adherence (p<.05) SFP intervention were significantly improved, compared with control families. However, only families in the higher adherence intervention group improved significantly, compared with control youth, at the 1½-year follow-up (p<.01).


Youth Substance Refusal/Resistance Skills

At baseline there were no significant differences on the measure of youth substance refusal/resistance skills between the total intervention and the control groups. At the 1½ years postbaseline follow-up, there was a marginally significant difference (p<.10) between scores of the higher adherence intervention and the control groups.


Study 2

Negative Peer Associations

Gottfredson and colleagues (2006) reported a statistically significant negative effect on child reports of negative peer associations for children of families assigned to the SFP intervention group.


Child Problem Behavior

No statistically significant effect was found for the SFP intervention.


Child Risk and Protective Factors

No statistically significant effect was found for the SFP intervention.


Family Factors

No statistically significant effect was found for the SFP intervention.

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