Building family skills to prevent drug use

17 March 2009 - Families have the potential to be the most powerful protective force in the lives of children and youth. Healthy family relationships may even prevent children and adolescents from engaging in drug use, delinquency and risky sexual behaviours. UNODC has developed a Guide to Implementing Family Skills Training Programmes for Drug Abuse Prevention to assist those who are looking to implement effective prevention interventions for young people and families. Descriptions of evidence-based family skills training programmes will be published later this year.

Supporting parents in taking better care of their children has been proven an effective strategy to prevent drug use and a range of risky and problematic behaviour. Families characterized by secure and healthy parent/child attachment, parental supervision and effective discipline and a cohesive and organized family environment help protect children from drug use and contribute to their capacity to overcome hardships and achieve positive outcomes in life.

Conversely, families with indifferent child-parent relationships and a chaotic home environment increase the risk of children and youth to initiate drug use or other risky behaviour.

A comparison of the effectiveness of family skills training programmes has found them to be on average four times as effective as drug education programmes targeting youth only in school. Other positive outcomes reported include increased child attachment to school and improved academic performance, less depression and aggression in children, increased child social competence and pro-social behaviour, and lower levels of family conflict.

In terms of cost-effectiveness, these programmes have been found to return a saving of approximately US$10 in the long term for every dollar spent on implementation.

Family skills training programmes are based on interactive and practical methods in order to produce lasting behavioural changes in parents and children. They offer parallel skills training sessions for parents and children (or adolescents) and at the end of each session bring the families together to practice their newly acquired skills as a family.

UNODC is developing a global project to adapt, implement and evaluate the effectiveness of family skills training programmes in low- and middle-income countries.

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More information and full text of the guide available at the Youthnet website.

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