Preventing substance misuse: randomised controlled trial of the Strengthening Families Programme 10-14 (UK)

SFP 10-14 (UK)
Lead investigator
Prof. Simon Murphy, Cardiff University

The use of alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs by young people impacts on their health in the short and long term, and is also associated with anti-social behaviour, crime and dropping out of school. Many of the factors which protect young people from misusing drugs and alcohol, or put them at greater risk of doing so, are linked to family life and parenting.

The Strengthening Families Programme 10-14 (UK), SFP 10-14 (UK), aims to strengthen these protective factors (parenting, family communication, and young people’s resilience skills) and simultaneously reduce key risk factors that are located within families.

Research in the United States has found some evidence that the SFP 10-14 delays and reduces substance use (alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs) by young people.

Aims & objectives
To ascertain the impact of the Strengthening Families Programme 10-14 (UK) - SFP 10-14 (UK) - on alcohol and drug misuse, and smoking behaviour in adolescents, and to answer a number of questions regarding other impacts of the SPF10-14 (UK): What impact does the SFP10-14 (UK) have on school performance, and mental health and well-being? What impact does the SFP10-14 (UK) have on protective factors for alcohol and tobacco use/misuse located in the family, such as family functioning, parenting and young people's peer resistance skills? What are the costs associated with the SFP 10-14 (UK) and to what extent can it be regarded as an efficient use of public funds? How can SFP 10-14 (UK) best be implemented and is there important variation in delivery and receipt? This study is conducted on behalf of the Welsh Government to examine its potential as a national programme for Wales. This study will examine whether the results found in the US translate to a UK context, and will also address the methodological limitations of previous studies. It will identify whether the programme delays or reduces substance use, and collect information that will help in wider implementation of the programme if successful.
Study design

Pragmatic RCT with families as the unit of randomisation, with embedded process and economic evaluations.

Participating families will be randomised to one of two treatment groups:

  • Control group: Receives usual care with full access to existing services and a minimal information leaflet;
  • Intervention group: Receives the SFP 10-14 (UK) programme in addition to usual care.

SFP 10-14 (UK) is being implemented as part of the trial in seven areas of Wales. Each area will run the programme on 6 – 10 occasions over an 18 – 24 month period, with 8 – 10 intervention families per programme.

SFP 10-14 (UK) is a seven-week intervention. In each session there is an hour during which parent sessions and young people sessions are conducted separately, followed by a second combined family hour. Typically, the first hour focuses on skills (e.g. peer resistance for the young people, parenting for the parents), with the second hour designed to enable parents and young people to focus on communication skills, recognise family strengths, and practice skills covered in the first hour.

Nine month follow-up data collection commenced October 2010. 15 month follow-up data collection commenced May 2011.

Further information & publications
Start date
September 2009
End date
June 2014
Trial register number