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Home > A decade of the Strengthening Families Programme in Ireland.

Dillon, Lucy (2018) A decade of the Strengthening Families Programme in Ireland. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 66, Summer 2018, p. 21.

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The Strengthening Families Programme (SFP) was first introduced in Ireland in 2007. To mark the 10th year of the programme here, the National Strengthening Families Programme Council of Ireland (NSFPCI) collaborated with its members to collate data collected on the programme over the decade. It presented the findings at the 8th Conference of the European Society for Prevention Research (EUSPR), ‘Quality in Prevention’, held in September 2017.1 This has been followed up with the report, Family effects: Strengthening Families Programme 10 year outcomes in Ireland, which was published in March 2018.2


Strengthening Families Programme

The Strengthening Families Programme was developed in the USA in 1982 and is now being delivered in an estimated 36 countries. It is a parenting and family skills training programme for high-risk and general population families. Internationally, there are a number of variants of the programme. In Ireland, the focus has been on the 14-week model that works with families with children aged 12–16 years, although some sites also deliver the programme for families with children aged 6–11 years. It is designed to build parents’ and children’s healthy skills and create positive relationships within families.3


Outcomes in Ireland

Family effects provides an overview of the programme and a summary of key – largely positive – findings from evaluations of its delivery in Ireland over the past 10 years.4 It also presents the findings of an effort to capture collective outcomes at a national level. Analysis was carried out on data collected from 573 of the families who completed the programme in Ireland. Data were only collected from parents using a questionnaire that aimed to capture how their and their family’s behaviour had changed from before to after completing the programme (a retrospective pre- and post-test design questionnaire). This standardised instrument was developed by the programme developers in the USA. It was designed to assess ‘child and parent mental health, substance abuse, risk and resiliencies, family management and cohesiveness, and parent and child social skills and attitudes’ (p. 20).


While there are limitations to the methods used to look at these outcomes, the overall findings were positive:

  • The authors found a positive effect on parenting outcomes across parental involvement, parental supervision, parenting efficacy, positive parenting, and SFP parenting skills. They only found a small effect in relation to parent drug or alcohol use but explain this as either due to parents having low levels of use at the start of the programme or that it would be too soon to measure any such change at the end of the programme.
  • Positive effects were also found for children or young people for decreased overt/covert aggression and depression, and increases in concentration and positive social behaviour.
  • At a family level, positive outcomes were found for conflict, communication, strengths and resilience.

The report concludes with a set of recommendations, including:

  • To explore the cost-effectiveness of SFP as a family-based prevention programme.
  • To work with academic institutions to improve the collection of national data on the programme, including that on outcomes.
  • To explore ways in which to capture the longer-term effects of the programme, with a particular focus on teens who have participated in the programme and are now parents themselves.

1 Dillon L (2018) EUSPR conference: quality in prevention, Drugnet Ireland, 64: 22–23.

2 National Strengthening Families Programme Council of Ireland (2018) Family effects: Strengthening Families Programme 10 year outcomes in Ireland. Dublin: NSFPCI.

3 For further information on the programme, visit

4 One of these evaluations was covered in an earlier Drugnet Ireland article. See Keane M (2012) Evaluating the Strengthening Families Programme, Drugnet Ireland, 41: 18–19.  

Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
All substances
Intervention Type
Prevention, Harm reduction, Education and training
Issue Title
Issue 66, Summer 2018
September 2018
Page Range
p. 21
Health Research Board
Issue 66, Summer 2018

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