Considering that most cases of juvenile delinquency are related to issues with the teens’ parents, it is not too surprising that family-focused programs have proved to be some of the most effective forms of intervention for such situations. Recent research carried out by Arizona State University has found a new family-oriented intervention to be highly effective in preventing substance abuse and dropping out of school in Mexican American middle school students.
Published in the journal Prevention Science, the study was the first randomized prevention trial to examine its effect on dropout rate, focusing on seventh graders and their parents. The family intervention program engaged 516 students and their families from four Maricopa county middle schools by creating an academic track and future plan for them. The results showed that the students who were the most at risk for developing early drinking benefitted the most from the program, leaving them more likely to value education than they were before the intervention.
“Research findings show that middle school is an opportune time to strengthen competencies and to motivate parents to provide the guidance and support that youth need to stay on a good path through adolescence. The program brought in parents and students to work side by side. It really reinforces education for the students and the program is very easy to implement.” said Gonzales, lead author of the study.
The program itself consisted of students working with peers and facilitators to explore the ways in which education is valuable as well as identifying and affirming their personal goals. The students were also taught about healthy strategies to cope with life’s challenges, providing them with the tools to properly address disappointment instead of internalizing them, which in turn lead to fewer symptoms of depression and destructive behavior. Parents were involved by monitoring and setting limits on their adolescent to help them meet their academic and future career goals as well as offering support to keep their child on track.
A shift in focus from past intervention models
While there is a litany of family interventions designed for children, Arizona State University’s study is the first to place an emphasis on educational needs and problem solving instead of discipline alone. Where disciplinary interventions had very mixed results in the past (due to most young adults with behavioral issues being oppositional defiant to begin with), the program in ASU’s study focused on positive communication between the students and their parents, prompting the kids to value education more since their parents are more expressive with caring about it.
The researchers noted positive student-parent communication in virtually the entire test group, with one student even hugging their parents for the first time during their teenage years. The program was so successful that it was awarded a grant from the National Institute of Drug Abuse to help focus on long term sustainability, taking it a step closer to becoming available as a program in Title I schools (marked by their receiving of funds for having large, low-income populations).
One of Sovereign Health’s most effective strategies has proven to be our commitment to providing our patients with the educational tools and life skills to not only achieve recovery, but better themselves and their lives post-graduation. We offer group therapy models such as process and psychoeducational groups as well as an intensive family therapy program that includes modalities such as brief strategic family therapy and family-only psychoeducational groups. Recognizing that many teens’ mental and behavioral health issues are related to their interactions with their own families, we offer a family day at our young adult facilities as well as a two day family program.
If you would like more information, feel free to browse the treatment programs or locations sections of our site.
Written by Chase Beckwith, Sovereign Health Group writer