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Strengthening Families Program for Parents and Youth 3–16


Prevention; Ages 3–16


(Read the criteria for this rating)

Effective delinquency program


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