What is the Strengthening Families Program?
The Strengthening Families Program (SFP) was developed in 1982 by Dr. Karol Kumpfer, Ph.D., and associates, with funding from the National Institute of Drug Abuse. It is an evidence-based parenting program designed to help parents and kids develop happier family relationships, improve mental health outcomes, and help decrease youth alcohol and drug use, violence, and delinquent behavior.
SFP consists of a 10- to 14-week*, two-hour skills course with separate parent, teen and child lessons held during the first hour, followed by a family practice session during the second hour. SFP skills are for all families; they are not special skills for deficient families. (In SFP, a “family” is defined as one or more adults responsible for one or more children; a “parent” is an adult with that responsibility.)
It has been updated in recent years and proven effective by families in all 50 states and 38 foreign countries. The following results were found in randomized control trials:
- Increased family unity
- Increased positive communication
- Increased positive parenting skills
- Improved family management and organization
- Improved parent/child relationship
- Decreased family conflict
- Increased social skills, cooperation and pro-social friends
- Improved school performance
- Reduced misconduct and aggression
- Reduced depression and anxiety
- Dramatically reduced tobacco, alcohol and drug abuse use
SFP is successful because the lessons are skill-based; and when parents and youth are taught and practice prosocial skill-based lessons together, it changes their brain wiring for the good and improves family dynamics.
An updated SFP version for parents with children from ages 7–17 was created in 2012, with video-clips from the SFP Home-Use DVD. The SFP 7–17 lessons include the following skills:
- Daily looking for and complimenting the good; eliminating harsh criticism
- Using communication and fun family meetings
- Problem solving, win-win negotiation, and pre-problem solving to stay out of trouble
- Limit setting and establishing mild, fair, pre-determined consequences
- Making family rules and setting up a reward system for good behavior
- Reducing stress and using good anger management skills
- Setting goals and using contracts for change
- Learning how alcohol and drugs hijack the teen brain
- Choosing good friends and monitoring kids’ activities
- Creating fun family traditions, learning pro-social values, and engaging in service
* Depending on risk factors for the families.
To reduce costs and increase fidelity, a low-cost ($5) SFP 7–17 Years Home-Use DVD was created. It was tested and found effective in homes, schools, clinics, detention centers, and behavioral health home visits (Kumpfer, et al., in review). The low-cost SFP 7–17 Years Home-Use video version features an introduction lesson on how the brain develops, with a mindfulness component to increase emotional regulation, and eleven 30-minute, skill-based lessons with built-in “pause and practice” segments. It includes free downloadable handouts and tracking sheets. It has audio tracks in both English and Spanish. The SFP DVD has been used by families at home and as an adjunct to family classes in schools, family services agencies, homeless shelters, refugee communities, and juvenile courts with very favorable outcomes.
Introduction Lesson (SFP 7–17)
Happy Family – Healthy Brain Connection
SFP DVD VIDEO LESSON DETAILS:
Risk and protective factors addressed: family attachment and increased social skills