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February 2007Vol. 8, No. 1Family Strengthening Programs for Incarcerated Substance Abusers

A recent study found that family strengthening programs adapted for use with substance abuse offenders and their children showed improvements in family functioning and led to attitude shifts against drug use in both adults and children. In addition, the research supports the use of family strengthening programs as an effective intervention strategy for substance abuse in youth.

In this study, the Strengthening Families Program was modified for use in a short-term substance abuse treatment facility. Separate and joint activities for the incarcerated parent and the child were designed to improve family relations and parenting skills, improve children's social and emotional skills, and decrease youth substance use and intermediate risk factors. Forty-one clients and their 58 children completed the 10-week program. The study found significant positive effects on all four outcomes selected by program staff:

  • Family resilience
  • Opportunities for pro-social involvement
  • Rewards for pro-social involvement
  • Family bonding

Parents and children involved in the program reported positive changes in behaviors and attitudes toward drug use, family strengths, and the quality of family bonding. These results further validate the effectiveness of family strengthening programs in improving family dynamics and parenting skills and decreasing substance abuse in parents and youth.

The full study, “An Evaluation of a Family Strengthening Program for Substance Abuse Offenders,” by Charles Mindel and Richard Hoefer, was published in the Journal of Social Service Research, Vol 32(4), and can be purchased online: