Home > Guide to implementing family skills training programmes for drug abuse prevention.

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. (2009) Guide to implementing family skills training programmes for drug abuse prevention. Vienna: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

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Supportive families are essential to raising socially, mentally and physically healthy and well-adjusted children and preventing later adolescent problems. The challenges faced by many parents around the world as they try to provide for their families include balancing family and work life, juggling financial commitments, ensuring adequate support and social contacts and finding time for the family to be together. Sometimes parents struggle with substance abuse problems, which affects their parenting skills.

Factors such as a lack of security, trust and warmth in parent-child relationships, a lack of structure in family life and inappropriate discipline practices and insufficient limit-setting can render children at greater risk of problem behaviours and subsequent substance abuse and mental health disorders.

Family skills training programmes have been found to be effective in preventing many of these risky behaviours, including substance abuse. Research findings confirm that skills training produces better results than do programmes that provide parents only with information about substances. Better yet, programmes including skills training for parents, children and families can be implemented from infancy through adolescence and have been shown to positively change family functioning and parenting practices in enduring ways. This results in healthier and more supportive environments in which children can grow and develop.

As part of its efforts to promote evidence-based practice, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) initiated a review of family skills training programmes and the evidence of their effectiveness worldwide, with the assistance of Karol Kumpfer of the University of Utah. The review process focused on universal programmes that target all parents and families, and selective programmes that target parents and families that belong to groups or communities that, by virtue of their socio-economic situation, are particularly at risk of substance abuse problems. Except where they were part of tiered programmes, indicated level programmes that work mostly with individuals with screened, referred or diagnosed risk factors associated with a high probability of negative outcomes and that involve highly trained professionals were not considered for the review process, although their importance was, of course, recognized.

Some 130 universal and selective programmes were identified and practitioners, programme managers, researchers and programme developers from these programmes throughout the world were invited to a technical consultation meeting on family skills training in October 2007. At the meeting, participants discussed the principles, content, implementation and cultural adaptation of effective existing universal and selective family skills training programmes.

The present Guide to Implementing Family Skills Training Programmes for Drug Abuse Prevention has been compiled on the basis of the review of family skills training programmes, the meeting and a literature review and focuses on providing basic information and guidance to those policymakers and programme managers interested in launching a family skills training programme at the universal or selective level.

As a companion to the present Guide, UNODC will publish a list of all of the evidence-based programmes identified in the course of the review process. The list will include information for policymakers or programme managers wishing to choose the most appropriate existing, evidence-based programme to be adapted and implemented in their community (for example, the level of evidence available, the extent to which a programme has already been implemented in different settings, the target groups for which the programme has been found to be effective, and so forth). It is hoped that the Guide and the list will complement each other in promoting implementation of this important substance abuse prevention strategy.

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