Content and Program Mechanics

The SFP 10-14 is a universal program designed to reach the general population and is culturally sensitive to multiethnic families with young adolescents who live in urban and rural areas. It is appropriate for parents of all educational levels.


The SFP 10-14 consists of seven sessions plus four booster sessions. Parents and youth attend separate skill-building sessions for the first hour and spend the second hour together in supervised family activities. The program is designed for 8 to 13 families and is typically held in a public school, church, or community center. At least two rooms (one for youth and one for parents) are required for each session, with family sessions taking place in the larger of the two rooms. Three facilitators (one for parents and two for youth) are needed for each session. All of the facilitators offer assistance to families and model appropriate skills during the family session.


Youth and parent sessions contain parallel content; the family session provides reinforcement and skills practice (see table 2 below). For example, while the parents are learning how to use consequences when youth break rules, youth are learning about the importance of following rules. In the family session that follows, youth and parents practice problem solving as a family for situations when rules are broken.

Table 2: Session Topics
Primary SessionsBooster Sessions


Using Love and Limits
Making House Rules
Encouraging Good Behavior
Using Consequences
Building Bridges
Protecting Against Substance Abuse
Getting Help for Special Family Needs
Handling Stress
Communicating When You Don't Agree
Reviewing Love and Limits Skills
Reviewing How To Help With Peer Pressure

Having Goals and Dreams
Appreciating Parents
Dealing With Stress
Following Rules
Handling Peer Pressure I
Handling Peer Pressure II
Reaching Out to Others
Handling Conflict
Making Good Friends
Getting the Message Across
Practicing Our Skills

Supporting Goals and Dreams
Appreciating Family Members
Using Family Meetings
Understanding Family Values
Building Family Communication
Reaching Goals
Putting It All Together and Graduation
Understanding Each Other
Listening to Each Other
Understanding Family Roles
Using Family Strengths

Youth sessions focus on strengthening prosocial goals for the future, dealing with stress and strong emotions, appreciating parents and other elders, increasing the desire to be responsible, and building skills to deal with peer pressure. Parent sessions include discussions of parents' potential positive influence on young teens. These discussions focus on understanding the developmental characteristics of youth, providing nurturing support, dealing effectively with children in everyday interactions, setting appropriate limits and following through with reasonable and respectful consequences, and sharing beliefs and expectations regarding alcohol and drug use. During family sessions, parents and youth practice listening and communicating with respect, identify family strengths and family values, learn how to use family meetings to teach responsibility and solve problems, and learn how to plan enjoyable family activities. Youth, parent, and family sessions include discussions, skill-building activities, videotapes that model positive behavior, and games designed to build skills and strengthen positive interactions among family members.


Parent sessions include didactic presentations, role-plays, group discussions, and other skill-building activities. Videotapes are used for all parent sessions; this standardizes the program and visually demonstrates effective parent-child interactions. Because videotapes are used, only one parent workshop leader/instructor is required. The videotapes include timed countdowns for group discussion and activities—the facilitator starts the video at the beginning of the session and lets it run for the entire hour-long parent session. This ensures that the group remains on schedule and is ready for the subsequent family session. The videotapes include didactic presentations by an African American narrator and a white narrator and numerous vignettes of typical family situations and interactions (both positive and negative). Adults and youth in the vignettes include African American, Hispanic, and non-Hispanic white actors.2 Approximately one-fourth to one-third of each parent session consists of didactic presentations and observations of videotaped family vignettes; the remaining time is spent in skill practice, open discussion, and group support.

The majority of each youth session is spent in small and large group discussions, group skill practice, and social bonding activities. Youth topics are presented in gamelike activities in order to engage youth and keep their interest while they are learning. In sessions 5 and 6, the videotape Keeping Out of Trouble and Keeping Your Friends: A Road Map is shown to motivate youth to resist peer pressure and to teach specific steps in resistance.

Family sessions help parents and youth practice skills learned in the separate parent and youth sessions. Activities include communication exercises and poster-making projects in which family members visually express concepts such as appreciating each other's strengths and identifying family values. Teaching games help parents and youth empathize with each other and learn skills in family problem solving. Two of the family sessions use instructional videotapes to demonstrate how to institutionalize positive family change and maintain SFP 10-14 program benefits by holding regular family meetings and working together to help youth deal with peer pressure. The leaders facilitate discussions and group activities between videotape segments. Two-thirds of each family session is spent within individual family units in which parents and youth participate in discussions or projects. The remaining time is spent in large-group skill-building activities and games. Each family session ends with a closing circle in which all youth and parents stand together in a circle and respond to an open-ended statement based on session content, such as "One thing we like to do as a family is . . . ."

The following methods are used to encourage participants to maintain the skills they learned through the program. During the final family session, group leaders show slides of the youth, parent, and family sessions taken during the course of the program. This slide show serves as a review of program content in a format that is attractive to both young people and adults. During the final review session, a framed certificate with a photograph of parent(s) and child(ren) taken during program sessions is given to each participating family. The families are asked to display the certificates in their homes to serve as a reminder of concepts and skills learned in the program. In addition, during the last session, parents and youth write structured letters to each other related to the content of the program (see below). The letters are collected by program facilitators and mailed to the families 1 month after the last session. In addition, several family activities result in posters that participants display in their homes.

Structured Letters


A 415-page instructor manual contains a teaching outline, a script for the videotapes, and detailed instructions for all activities. The "Overview" section includes background information and practical considerations for implementing the SFP 10-14, such as recruitment, facilitator job descriptions, and suggested processes for registration, meals and snacks, incentives, and childcare. A detailed timeline for organizing and implementing the SFP 10-14 and a list of needed equipment and materials are also included. Master copies of each parent, youth, and family worksheet and homework assignment are provided at the end of each session. Materials for the first seven sessions also include the nine videotapes described above—six for parent sessions, one for youth sessions 5 and 6, and two for family sessions. The manual also includes master copies of a program flier, ordering information, and evaluation instruments. A separate 215-page manual contains the four booster sessions for parents, youth, and families. Two additional videotapes are required for the booster sessions.

Theoretical Assumptions

Several etiological and intervention models influenced the development of the SFP 10-14: the biopsychosocial vulnerability model, a resiliency model, and a family process model linking economic stress and adolescent adjustment. The following paragraphs describe each of these models.

The biopsychosocial vulnerability model was the basis for the original SFP. It offers a framework that suggests that family coping skills and resources (such as effective family management, conflict resolution/problem-solving skills, and communication skills) buffer family stressors (such as family conflicts and financial stress). This approach assumes a developmental perspective, with the family exerting relatively more influence on young adolescents than on older adolescents.

The curriculum was adapted for young adolescents and their parents (SFP 10-14), guided by the resiliency model of Kumpfer (1994, 1996) and Richardson et al. (1990). The model includes greater focus in families on protective processes that are associated with basic resiliency characteristics in youth. Thus, the program includes instruction in seven associated coping or life skills—emotional management skills, interpersonal social skills, reflective skills, academic and job skills, ability to restore self-esteem, planning skills, and problem-solving ability.

The family process model is based on research conducted at Iowa State University and supported by data from the Iowa Youth and Families Project. It provides support for risk variables targeted by the SFP 10-14, linking economic stress to problematic adolescent adjustment. In this model, objective economic stress was related to parents' perceptions of increased economic pressure. This perceived pressure, in turn, was linked to increased parental depression and demoralization, leading to greater marital discord and more frequent disruptions in skillful parenting. Finally, the model indicates that this disrupted parenting adversely affects adolescent adjustment (Conger et al., 1991).

These models support family-risk-focused and youth resiliency approaches to prevention using strategies to reduce or buffer the known, overlapping precursors of conduct and substance use problems in adolescents that originate in the family. The strategies also help youth build protective coping skills through positive rather than negative behaviors. The SFP 10-14 authors (Molgaard, Kumpfer, and Fleming, 1997) have incorporated empirically supported techniques for improving family management practices and youth skill enhancement to address selected risk and resiliency factors in the models.

2 For information about adaptations of the program for other ethnic groups, contact Dr. Molgaard.

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Competency Training
The Strengthening Families Program: For Parents and Youth 10-14
Juvenile Justice Bulletin August 2000