Promising Parenting Programs for Reducing Adolescent Problem Behaviors

J Child Serv. 2013;8(4):10.1108/JCS-04-2013-0016. doi: 10.1108/JCS-04-2013-0016.


Purpose: Adolescent problem behaviors (substance use, delinquency, school dropout, pregnancy, and violence) are costly not only for individuals, but for entire communities. Policymakers and practitioners that are interested in preventing these problem behaviors are faced with many programming options. In this review, we discuss two criteria for selecting relevant parenting programs, and provide five examples of such programs.

Design/methodology/approach: The first criterion for program selection is theory based. Well-supported theories, such as the social development model, have laid out key family-based risk and protective factors for problem behavior. Programs that target these risk and protective factors are more likely to be effective. Second, programs should have demonstrated efficacy; these interventions have been called "evidence-based programs" (EBP). This review highlights the importance of evidence from rigorous research designs, such as randomized clinical trials, in order to establish program efficacy.

Findings: Nurse-Family Partnership, The Incredible Years, Positive Parenting Program, Strengthening Families 10-14, and Staying Connected with Your Teen are examined. The unique features of each program are briefly presented. Evidence showing impact on family risk and protective factors, as well as long-term problem behaviors, is reviewed. Finally, a measure of cost effectiveness of each program is provided.

Originality/value: We propose that not all programs are of equal value, and suggest two simple criteria for selecting a parenting program with a high likelihood for positive outcomes. Furthermore, although this review is not exhaustive, the five examples of EBPs offer a good start for policymakers and practitioners seeking to implement effective programs in their communities. Thus, this paper offers practical suggestions for those grappling with investments in child and adolescent programs on the ground.

Keywords: Adolescent; Child; Delinquency; Dropout; Evidence-based practice; Family; Parenting; Prevention; Programs; Substance use; Teen pregnancy; Violence/aggression.