The Strengthening Families Programme in Spain: a long-term evaluation

Date15 June 2015
Publication Date15 June 2015
AuthorCarmen Orte,Lluís Ballester,Martí X. March,Joan Amer,Marga Vives,Rosario Pozo
SubjectHealth & social care,Vulnerable groups,Children's services
The Strengthening Families Programme
in Spain: a long-term evaluation
Carmen Orte, Lluís Ballester, Martí X. March, Joan Amer, Marga Vives and Rosario Pozo
Dr Carmen Orte is Chair
Professor, Dr Lluís Ballester is
Professor, Dr Martí X. March is
Chair Professor, Dr Joan Amer,
Dr Marga Vives and
Dr Rosario Pozo are Lecturers,
all at the Department of
Education and Didactics,
University of the Balearic
Islands, Palma, Spain.
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to first assess the long-term effects of the adaptation of the American
Strengthening Families Programme in Spain (known as the Programa de Competencia Familiar, translated
into English as the Family Competence Programme (FCP)). The second aim is to identify family typologies and
family changes regarding family competence over time. The papers initial hypothesis is that families have
different behaviours and take advantage of the FCP in different ways.
Design/methodology/approach Monitored applications of the FCP were conducted using a quasi-
experimentaldesign consistingof a control group and pre-test,post-test and two-yearfollow-up assessments.
The sample wasmade up of 136 families who took part in theprogramme and another 18 who participatedin
the controlgroups. Validated instrumentswere applied to assess the methodologicalprocesses and the family
assessments. A cluster analysis was undertaken to identify different family typologies and their evolution in
relation to the FCP goals.
Findings The FCP shows effective and consistent results over time for families in a variety of difficult
situations, with important result maintenance. The longitudinal analysis (i.e. the two-year follow-up)
demonstrates that the majority of changes identified (using the factors under consideration) maintained their
relevance for most of the families, producing positive change.
Originality/value Thereis little long-term evaluationor longitudinal analysisof family prevention programmes
that are evidence-based and includecognitive-emotional content.This paper analyses the long-termevaluation
of family preventionprogrammes and identifies the ways in which families change over time.
Keywords Parent education, Drug education, Family education, Health education,
Prevention programmes, Scientific-based evidence programmes
Paper type Research paper
Recent decades have provided an accumulation of studies that relate parental behaviour with the
social, emotional and psychological development of their children (Castro et al., 2015;
Majdandžićet al., 2014). These studies have highlighted some of the consequences of improved
parent-child relationships: parents with appropriate parenting skills (i.e. affective parents who
respond to their childrens needs, allowing them to actively participate in establishing family rules
and who use positive discipline options) tend to have children who are independent, sociable,
cooperative and self-confident.
These positive parental behaviours are related to high levels of adjustment, ps ychosocial
competence, self-esteem and school adaptation (Martínez et al., 2003). On the other hand,
parent-child relationships dominated by aggressionand rejection,in which there are no appropriate
levels of affection and support, tend to be associated with emotional and behavioural
problems n children, e.g. depression, aggressive behaviour, anxiety, aggressiveness and hostility
(Repetti et al., 2002).
Received 26 March 2013
Revised 23 August 2013
22 January 2014
12 June 2015
Accepted 14 June 2015
DOI 10.1108/JCS-03-2013-0010 VOL. 10 NO. 2 2015, pp. 101-119, © Emerald Group Publishing Limited, ISSN 1746-6660
PAG E 10 1
The Family Competence Programme (FCP) is an adaptation of the original American
Strengthening Families Programme (SFP) in Spain (Kumpfer and DeMarsh, 1985; Kumpfer
et al., 1989, 2010, 2012; Kumpfer, 1998; Kumpfer and Alvarado, 2003). SFP is a selective
multicomponent risk prevention programme; it was originally developed to reduce the influence of
family risk factors amongst children of substance abusers whilst strengthening protection factors.
The aim was to increase the childrens resilience in the face of substance abuse and other
possible problems. We understand family competencefrom an innovative socio-educational
focus that consists of enabling parents and children in all areas where they can better their
relationships and parental practice. All family members, not just parents, need training in order to
face the social challenges of modern family dynamics. An integrated multicomponent perspective
provides the skills necessary for positive parenting and the betterment of family dynamics
(Sanders and Morawska, 2010). The US SFP is considered to be effective in preventing drug use
and other behaviour problems (Foxcroft et al., 2002; Foxcroft and Tsertsvadze, 2011), in both the
general population as well as high-risk groups (Kumpfer et al., 2010; Bröning et al., 2012). When
adapted for different cultures, the SFPs effectiveness has also been demonstrated in various
countries (Kumpfer et al., 2012).
The SFP can be considered a model programme in accordance with the classification made by
the substance abuse and mental health services administration (SAMHSA). SAMHSA quality
criteria include: intervention fidelity, process assessment, measurement of behaviour change and
validity of the measuring procedures (
The Spanish FCP conducted by Orte et al. (2013) focused on two service agencies: a national
NGO drug prevention programme called Proyecto Hombre (PH), dedicated to treating and
preventing addictions and facilitating social reintegration; and on the social services (SS) provided
by different municipalities of the Balearic Islands. Within each group, this research worked with
both an experimental group and a control group. This study analyses controlled implementations
that took place between 2009 and 2011.
Because this Spanish adaptation of the SFP sought to meet quality criteria, a pre-test/post-test
assessment was used, as well as control groups and process measurements obtained from the
process outcome assessments. The assessments focused on the outcomes and processes
carried out. With regards to change observed in the participants, we selected factors that
reported change in the families as a whole.
The SFP is founded on a cognitive-emotional approach based on a multicomponent structure
(work with parents, children and families); SFP uses a comprehensive curriculum derived from
experimentally tested theoretical benchmarks (Kumpfer and Alvarado, 2003).
The strengthening families approach requires adopting a systemic view of the challenges and
reactions of a family withincertain contexts and over time, rather thana transversal view at a given
moment, limited to current symptoms. A basic premise of this approach is that serious difficulties
affect thewhole family and, at the same time, familycoping mechanisms influencethe recovery of all
the members and of the family as a unit (Pittman, 1987). How the family faces and deals with
a problematicexperience handles stress, reorganises itself effectivelyand reinvests its energies in
different projects influences all the membersadaptation. Their ability to cope with future
challengesincreases by stimulatingthe familys ability to overcometheir difficulties in theshort term.
The general goals of the research project (which surpass this papers scope) are: first, the
establishment and verification of the effectiveness of a family competence evaluation system; and
second, to comprehend the long-term maintenance of the FCP effects on the participating
families, paying special attention to the main risk factors facing families. This papers specific goal
is to grasp the programmes different applications in relation to different family situations and
typologies, as well as the way family competence change over time.
The FCP functions over both the short and medium term (Orte et al., 2013; Kumpfer and
Alvarado, 2003). However, we understand that the programme does not work in the same way
for all families. For this reason, our research hypothesis is that families have different ways of
taking advantage of different aspects of the programme. The research presented in this paper
analyses whether there is maintenance of the FCP effects in the long term, based on the two-year
follow-up longitudinal analysis.
VOL. 10 NO. 2 2015

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