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Strengthening Families Program for Parents and Youth 3–16



The Strengthening Families Program for Parents and Youth 3–16 (SFP 3–16) is a video-based intervention designed to reduce adolescent substance abuse and other problematic behaviors in youth 3 to 16 years old. The program is delivered within parent, youth, and family sessions using narrated videos that portray typical youth and parent situations. Sessions are highly interactive and include role playing, discussions, learning games, and family projects designed to:

  • Improve parenting skills.
  • Build life skills in youth.
  • Strengthen family bonds.

The basic program is delivered over seven weeks, usually in the evenings. Four optional booster sessions can be held 3 to 12 months after the basic sessions. Bringing parents and youth together in SFP 3–16 has been particularly effective at building parent skills (e.g., monitoring, setting limits, expressing affection) and youth skills (e.g., resisting peer pressure, making positive goals, managing strong emotions) and changing behavior.

A print version of the parent sessions is available for non-English-speaking Hispanic/Latino parents and other ethnic groups who may be less able to relate to the videos. (Program instructions are in English; posters, handouts, and scripts for role plays are available in both Spanish and English.)

In sum, this program has been found to:

  • Delay the onset of adolescent substance use
  • Lower levels of aggression in youth
  • Increase the resistance to peer pressure in youth
  • Reduce youth conduct problems in school
  • Improve parent skills including building a positive relationship with their youth, setting appropriate limits, and following through on consequences, while showing love and support for their children

Risk Factors


Conduct disorders (authority conflict/rebellious/stubborn/disruptive/antisocial)

General delinquency involvement


Antisocial parents

Child maltreatment (abuse or neglect)

Family history of problem behavior/criminal involvement

Family poverty/low family socioeconomic status

Family violence (child maltreatment, partner violence, conflict)

Growing up in foster care

High parental stress/maternal depression

Parental criminality

Parental neglect and abuse

Parental use of physical punishment/harsh and/or erratic discipline practices

Poor parental supervision (control, monitoring, and child management)

Poor parent-child relations or communication

Single parent household

Unhappy parents


Poor school attitude/performance; academic failure


U.S. Department of Education: Exemplary program

OJJDP Blueprints Project: Promising program

National Institute on Drug Abuse, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Effective program


Cathy Hockaday, Ph.D.
Extension Program Coordinator
1087 LeBaron Hall
Ames, IA 50011
Phone: (515) 294-7601
E-mail: [email protected]


Spoth, Richard L., Max Guyll, Wei Chao, and Virginia K. Molgaard. 2003. “Virginia Molgaard Exploratory Study of a Preventive Intervention With General Population African American Families.” Journal of Early Adolescence 23(4):435–86.

Spoth, Richard L., Cleve Redmond, Chungyeol Shin, and Kari Azevedo. 2004. “Brief Family Intervention Effects on Adolescent Substance Initiation: School-Level Growth Curve Analyses 6 Years Following Baseline.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 72(3):535–42.

Spoth, Richard L., G. Kevin Randall, and Chungyeol Shin. 2008. “Increasing School Success Through Partnership-Based Family Competency Training: Experimental Study of Long-Term Outcomes.” School Psychology Quarterly 23(1):70–89.

Date Created: April 7, 2021