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The Strengthening Families Program:
For Parents and Youth 10-14


Virginia Molgaard, Ph.D./Richard Spoth, Ph.D.
Iowa State University
Institute for Social and Behavioral Research
2625 North Loop Drive, Suite 500
Ames, IA 50010
(515) 294-8762 or (515) 294-9752   Fax: (515) 294-3613

Family Skills Training Speciality
10-14 years Target
Exemplary II Rating

The Strengthening Families Program: For Parents and Youth (SFP 10-14) resulted from an adaption of the Strengthening Families Program (SFP), originally developed at the University of Utah. Formerly called the Iowa Strengthening Families Program, the long-range goal for the curriculum is reduced substance use and behavior problems during adolescence. Intermediate objectives include improved skills in nurturing and child management by parents, and improved interpersonal and personal competencies among youth. Parents of all educational levels are targeted and printed materials for parents are written at an 8th grade reading level. All parent sessions, two youth, and two family sessions use videotapes portraying prosocial behaviors and are appropriate for multi-ethnic families.

The SFP 10-14 has seven two hour sessions for parents and youth, who attend separate skill- building groups for the first hour and spend the second hour together in supervised family activities. Four booster sessions are designed to be used six months to one year after the end of the first seven sessions, in order to reinforce the skills gained in the original sessions. Youth sessions focus on strengthening goal setting, dealing with stress and strong emotions, communication skills, increasing responsible behavior, and improving skills to deal with peer pressure. Youth Booster sessions focus on making good friends, handling conflict and reinforcing skills learned in the first seven sessions. Parents discuss the importance of both nurturing their youth while, at the same time, setting rules, monitoring compliance, and applying appropriate discipline. Topics include making house rules, encouraging good behavior, using consequences, building bridges, and protecting against substance abuse. Parent Booster sessions focus on handling parents' stress, communicating when partners don't agree and reinforcing earlier skills training.

Three controlled, longitudinal studies are underway. The first of these evaluated the Iowa Strengthening Families Program or ISFP (the SFP 10-14 is a revision of the ISFP) with a sample of families of sixth graders. There have been a large number of statistically significant ISFP intervention effects on primary child and parent outcomes through the twelfth-grade follow-up assessment, four years following the pre-test. Key findings from intervention versus control comparisons include, but are not limited to: 1) positive effects on parenting behaviors directly targeted by the ISFP through the eighth-grade follow-up; 2) improvement in peer resistance skills and reduction in affiliations with anti-social peers at the seventh, eighth, and tenth grade follow-ups; 3) lower probabilities of initiating any type of substance use between the seventh and eighth grades, as indicated by latent transition analyses; 4) lower proportions of twelfth-grade adolescents reporting lifetime use of alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana; 5) lower rates of growth in alcohol initiation, through the twelfth-grade follow-up, as indicated by growth curve analyses; 6) lower past month frequency of cigarette use in the tenth grade.

A second study, now in its sixth year, includes three groups of families: 1) those whose youth receive the Life Skills Training (LST) intervention in school; 2) those whose families participate in the SFP 10-14, in addition to the LST; and 3) those whose families receive written materials. A third study includes African-American families who take part in the SFP 10-14 or participate in a wait-list control condition.


Implementation Costs:

Costs include one manual for each of three facilitators and a set of videotapes. A set of nine videotapes, used in sessions 1 - 7 cost $250 plus shipping (VID 8). The 415-page manual is $175 (SF2). Each facilitator needs a manual. Thus, the total teaching package for sessions 1-7 is $775. The manual includes masters for all handouts, game cards, and posters. Teaching materials for four booster sessions include a manual for $50 and two videotapes for $60. An optional promotional videotape showing families taking part in program activities is $10 plus shipping and colorful brochures to use in recruitment are $.25 each. Add shipping costs to all materials ordered. All materials are available through

    Extension Distribution Center
    119 Kooser Drive,
    Iowa State University,
    Ames, IA 50011

For payment specifics please call (515) 294-5247.

Unless volunteer facilitators or paid staff are available, costs include honoraria for three facilitators, two for youth sessions and one for parent sessions. All three staff interact with families during the family session. Optional additional staff may include family recruiters and a person who arranges meals, sets up equipment, and finds child care personnel. Required supplies include name tags, tape, newsprint, tag board, markers, scissors, glue sticks, as well as various materials that may be borrowed such as clothesline and clothespins and a blanket or sheet. Incentives for participation are optional and may include coupons for groceries or fast food, family games, or snacks. Childcare should be provided for younger children and transportation may also be provided. A simple meal before the program or snacks during the family session is recommended.

Training Costs:

Two- and three-day trainings are available on site. Cost for two day is $2500 and for three days, $3500. Three-day trainings are recommended for groups conducting scientific evaluations of the program or for those needing to make adaptations for ethnic groups such as non-English-speaking parents. One trainer can teach up to 12 indidviduals and two trainers are required for groups of 13 up to 30. The training fee does not include the cost of teaching manuals or videos. Additional costs for each training include travel, lodging, and per diem for food. Individuals within an organization can become certified trainers by taking part in a specified series of train-the-trainer workshops.


Revised 11/10/2002

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