Strengthening Families (Iowa Program)

The Strengthening Families Program (SFP) is a family skills training program for high-risk and general population families that is recognized both nationally and internationally. Parents and youth attend weekly SFP skills classes together, learning parenting skills and youth life and refusal skills. They have separate class training for parents and youth the first hour, followed by a joint family practice session the second hour. Participants reported increased family bonding, increased parental involvement, increased positive parenting skills, increase positive communication, increased family organization, decreased family conflict, decreased youth depression, decreased youth aggression, increased youth cooperation, increased number of prosocial friends, increased youth social competencies, increased youth school grades.

Last reviewed: 2023

Intended Outcomes:

Intended outcomes for SFP are:
  • Increased family bonding
  • Increased parental involvement
  • Increased positive parenting skills
  • Increase positive communication
  • Increased family organization
  • Decreased family conflict
  • Decreased youth depression
  • Decreased youth aggression
  • Increased youth cooperation
  • Increased number of prosocial friends
  • Increased youth social competencies
  • Increased youth school grades

Continuum of Care:
Selective Prevention, Treatment, Universal Prevention

Topic Areas:
Behavioral Health/Mental Health, Disruptive Behaviors, Substance Use

Childhood (4-12), Early Childhood (0-3), Teen/Adolescent (13-18)

Geographic Locations:
Rural, Urban

Delivery Settings:

Cultural Considerations:
Limited research found involving diverse populations

This program is intended for both high-risk and general population families.

None required


Is Training Required?
Yes, see developer info

Who can provide the required training?
Ahearn Greene Associates, LLC

Program Costs (materials, training, etc.):
Yes, refer to program website

Program/Practice Website:

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research:

Mejia, A., Ulph, F., & Calam, R. (2016). The strengthening families program 10-14 in Panama: Parents’ perceptions of cultural fit. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 47(1), 56–65.

Spoth, R., Trudeau, L., Guyll, M., Shin, C., Redmond, C. (2009). Universal intervention effects on substance use among young adults mediated by delayed adolescent substance initiation. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology (77) 4. 620-632. DOI: 10.1037/a0016029

Allen, D., Coombes, L., & Foxcroft, D. R. (2007). Cultural accommodation of the Strengthening Families Programme 10-14: UK Phase I study. Health Education Research, 22(4), 547–560.

Baldus, C., Thomsen, M., Sack, P. M., Bröning, M., Arnaud, N., Daubmann, A., & Thomasius, R. (2016). Evaluation of a German version of the Strengthening Families Programme 10-14: A randomized controlled trial. European Journal of Public Health, 26, 953–959.

Ballester, L., Sánchez-Prieto, L., Orte, C., & Vives, M. (2022). Preventing Internalizing and Externalizing Symptoms in Adolescents Through a Short Prevention Programme: An Analysis of the Effectiveness of the Universal Strengthening Families Program 11-14. Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, 39(1), 119–131.

Bamberger, K. T., Coatsworth, D. J., Fosco, G. M., & Ram, N. (2014). Change in Participant Engagement During a Family-Based Preventive Intervention: Ups and Downs With Time and Tension. Journal of Family Psychology, 28(6), 811–820.

Foxcroft, D. R., Callen, H., Davies, E. L., & Okulicz-Kozaryn, K. (2017). Effectiveness of the strengthening families program 10-14 in Poland: cluster randomized controlled trial. European Journal of Public Health, 27(3), 494–500.

Kumpfer, K. L., Whiteside, H. O., Greene, J. A., & Allen, K. C. (2010). Effectiveness Outcomes of Four Age Versions of the Strengthening Families Program in Statewide Field Sites. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 14(3), 211–229.

Kumpfer, K., Xie, J., & O’Driscoll, R. (2012). Effectiveness of a Culturally Adapted Strengthening Families Program 12-16 Years for High-Risk Irish Families. Child & Youth Care Forum, 41(2), 173–195.

LoBraico, E. J., Fosco, G. M., Crowley, D. M., Redmond, C., Spoth, R. L., & Feinberg, M. E. (2019). Examining Intervention Component Dosage Effects on Substance Use Initiation in the Strengthening Families Program: for Parents and Youth Ages 10–14. Prevention Science, 20(6), 852–862.

Marek, L. I., Brock, D.-J. P., & Sullivan, R. (2006). Cultural Adaptations to a Family Life Skills Program: Implementation in Rural Appalachia. Journal of Primary Prevention, 27(2), 113–133.

Nádia P. Pinheiro-Carozzo, Sheila G. Murta, Luís Gustavo do A. Vinha, Isabela M. da Silva, & Anne Marie G. V. Fontaine. (2021). Beyond effectiveness of the Strengthening Families Program (10-14): a scoping RE-AIM-based review. Psicologia: Reflexão e Crítica, 34(1), 1–16.

Orte Socias, C., Sánchez-Prieto, L., Pascual Barrio, B., & Montaño Moreno, J. J. (2021). The Association between Trainer Expertise and Changes in Adolescent Symptomatology in an Evidence-Based Family Prevention Programme. Journal of Evidence-Based Social Work (2640-8066), 18(3), 353–368.

Riesch, S.K., Brown, R.L., & Anderson, L.S. (2012). Strengthening Families Program (10–14): Effects on the family environment. Western Journal of Nursing Research, 34, 340–376.

Spoth, R., Randall, G. K., Shin, C. (2008). Increasing school success through partnership-based family competency training: Experimental study of long-term outcomes. School Psychology Quarterly (23), 1. 70-89.

Spoth, R., Trudeau, L., Guyll, M., Shin, C., Redmond, C. (2009). Universal intervention effects on substance use among young adults mediated by delayed adolescent substance initiation. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology (77) 4. 620-632. DOI: 10.1037/a0016029

Spoth, R., Trudeau, L., Shin, C., Randall, G. K., Mason, W. A. (2019). Testing a model of universal prevention effects on adolescent relationships and marijuana use as pathways to young adult outcomes. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, (48). 444-458.

Trudeau, L., Spoth, R., Randall, G. K., & Azevedo, K. (2007). Longitudinal Effects of a Universal Family-Focused Intervention on Growth Patterns of Adolescent Internalizing Symptoms and Polysubstance Use: Gender Comparisons. Journal of Youth and Adolescence: A Multidisciplinary Research Publication, 36(6), 725–740.

Trudeau, L., Spoth, R., Randall, G. K., Azevedo, K. (2007). Longitudinal effects of a universal family-focused intervention on growth patterns of adolescent internalizing symptoms and polysubstance use: Gender comparisons. Journal of Youth Adolescence, (36). 727-740. DOI: 10.1007/s10964-007-9179-1

Additional Sources:

Promising rating

WV Rating:
»WV Ratings Info

Rationale for Rating:

This program has been listed as promising because, despite positives of the research, several limitations were also recognized. The body of research lacks convergence around a specific set of outcomes. The program holds many benefits including having been studied internationally (USA, Latin America, Spain, UK, Germany; see Pinheiro-Carozzo et al., 2021 for review) via RCT designs (e.g., Bamberger et al., 2014; Spoth et al., 2019), and using standardized/normed measures (e.g., BASC; Ballester et al., 2020). Some studies (e.g., Socias et al., 2021) also had trainer competency assessments to ensure consistent application of the program.

The reviewed literature had a significant amount of detail in some regards, studies did not always provide adequate detail of specific factors (e.g., demographic composition, setting, implementing agents). This created challenges for interpretation and comparison. For example, it was not always clear as to whether a child/adolescent/teen (or a family member engaging in the treatment) has a specific mental health condition, if they had other treatments (i.e., psychosocial, pharmacological), or if these factors were controlled for in analyses. Compounding this, research included a wide range of outcome targets that did not always overlap (e.g., anxiety, substance use, academic success, family communication). Further, longitudinal data was not always collected, limiting interpretation of long-term outcomes on the identified metrics, especially when evaluating a less-studied outcome target. Variability was also recognized in the type of model implemented. More specifically, programming structure, while similar, varied between studies as recognized in reviews (e.g., Pinherio-Carozzo et al., 2021), leading to numerous variations of the intervention and creating a challenge for direct comparison of the literature. Further, it potentially contributed to recognized differences in degrees of positive outcome between studies completed within the United States as compared to Europe. Finally, studies generally lacked a comparison to other similar programs and treatment-as-usual approaches (i.e., used only non-treatment control), as well as comparison to more formal psychotherapeutic and psychopharmacological interventions.

Contraindications or Concerns:
None identified

Other Registries/Ratings

The California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare:
Well-Supported by Research Evidence

Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development:

Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness:
Unclear +

Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Model Programs Guide:
Promising - One study

Washington State Institute for Public Policy:
Found on the registry. See link for more information.

Washington State Institute for Public Policy Registry Link: