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School-based family interventions key to reducing problem behavior in adolescents

Heather Rudow January 30, 2012

(Photo:Flickr/NazarethCollege)

Middle school is an important time in a child’s life, and without the proper guidance and a positive environment, that transition into adolescence can lead down a path of bad decisions. But according to new research released online in the Journal of Adolescent Health, any problem behavior can be reduced when parents participate in school-based family interventions.

As Health Behavior News Service reports, the researchers split 593 seventh and eighth graders and their families into two groups: a control group where participants simply went to school as usual, and another group where children and families participated in an intervention called Family Check-Up (FCU), which provided feedback and skill training for parents.

“We hypothesized that we would find significant intervention effects on all four outcomes — family conflict, parental monitoring, antisocial behavior and alcohol use,” said Mark J. Van Ryzin, lead author of the study. “We were pleased that these hypotheses were confirmed.”

He noted that one of FCU’s benefits is its short run-time. “The average participating family only received about four and half hours of intervention time,” Van Ryzin said.

Garry Sigman, director of adolescent medicine at Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago, said one of the positives of FCU is that it is different from other types of interventions. “Most adolescents with behavioral problems see professionals after they are in trouble, instead of beforehand, which is why this program is unique; there are few preventive programs like it,” he said. “It requires either a school district willing to incur the time and financial costs of trained professionals or collaboration between schools and mental health professionals. In either case, most districts do not have funds or interest in this type of endeavor.”

Adds Van Ryzin, “If support and services like the Family Check-Up are available, it can help implement reasonable strategies for change. The key is to involve the whole family in the process, not just the adolescent.”

Source: Health Behavior News Service

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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