This report summarizes research on the crucial role of the family in preventing juvenile delinquency, the principles of effective family strengthening interventions to prevent juvenile delinquency and child abuse, and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's Strengthening America's Families Initiative.
Research has revealed the developmental pathways to juvenile delinquency, the important roles of parental support and parental supervision, and family protective and resilience factors. The Strengthening America's Families Initiative is a training and technology transfer program that has identified 25 effective family strengthening programs from the 500 nominated programs and is disseminating the findings. Its analysis revealed that the effectiveness of many popular programs has not yet been demonstrated and that some programs may even be counterproductive. The three family intervention strategies that are effective in reducing risk factors and increasing protective factors are behavioral parent training, family therapy, and family skills training or behavioral family therapy. Effective interventions must be comprehensive, family-focused, long-term, of sufficient length and intensity, tailored to cultural traditions, and developmentally appropriate. They also must begin prenatally or in early childhood. Video-based programs that show good and bad parenting skills in videotaped vignettes are proving significantly effective over the long term, even when self-administered. The trainer's characteristics are also crucial. Future research should examine family-focused versus child-focused interventions, study long-term effectiveness, and examine cost-effectiveness. Photographs, footnotes, and 155 references
Date Published: November 1, 1998