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Margaret Caspe from HFRP describes the various measures family intervention and prevention programs use to evaluate family processes.

Developmental research confirms the importance of family processes and of the home environment in child and youth development and learning. How do intervention programs measure changes in family processes? To address this question, the Family Involvement Network of Educators (FINE) here at Harvard Family Research Project reviewed rigorously evaluated intervention and prevention programs that sought to change children’s cognitive and socioemotional development by supporting both children and parents. Using the database of effective interventions developed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,¹ we identified 13 programs that measured family processes along four dimensions: family context, parent-child relationship, parenting practices, and parent involvement in children’s learning in the home and school.

Family context refers to attempts on the part of the program to address issues of family functioning and the family environment, including stress, isolation, family cohesion, and problems related to child and substance abuse. Parent-child relationship relates to efforts to affect parent-child bonding, including increasing-parent-child communication, positive interactions, and attachment. In the parenting practices dimension, programs impact parenting strategies as regards effective and positive discipline practices, appropriate parental expectations, and monitoring. Lastly, parent involvement refers to a program’s intent both to increase parents’ skills, beliefs, and attitudes in supporting children in homework and literacy activities, and to bolster family and school relationships and parent-teacher communication.

New Resource From HFRP

HFRP founder and director, Heather Weiss, along with Project Manager Holly Kreider, Senior Consultant M. Elena Lopez, and Celina Chatman of the University of Chicago’s Harris Graduate School of Public Policy have edited a volume of research-
based teaching cases and theoretical perspectives focusing on dilemmas in family-school-community relationships. Preparing Educators to Involve Families: From Theory to Practice will be published by Sage Publications in spring 2005. For more information about this book visit

See a breakdown (23KB Acrobat file) of the various measures programs use to evaluate family processes.

Abidin, R. R. (1995). Parenting Stress Index professional manual (3rd ed.). Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.

Antonucci, T. C. (1986). Social support networks: A hierarchical mapping technique. Generations, 10, 10–12.

Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group. (1999). Initial impact of the Fast Track prevention trial for conduct problems: I. The high-risk sample. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 67(5), 631–647.

Forehand, R., & McMahon, R. J. (1981). Helping the noncompliant child: A clinician’s guide to parent training. New York: Guilford Press.

Gorman-Smith, D., Tolan, P. H., Zelli, A., & Huesmann, L. R. (1996). The relation of family functioning to violence among inner-city minority youths. Journal of Family Psychology, 10, 115–129.

Levenson, H. (1981). Differentiating among internality, powerful others, and chance. In H. M. Lefcourt (Ed.), Research with the locus of control construct (vol. 1): Assessment methods (pp. 15–62). Orlando, FL: Academic Press.

MacPhee, D., Benson, J. B., & Bullock, D. (1986, April). Influences on maternal self-perceptions. Poster session presented at the biennial International Conference on Infant Studies, Los Angeles.

Miller-Johnson, S., & Maumary-Gremaud, A. (1995). Developmental history and life changes (Fast Track Project Technical Report). Durham, NC: Duke University.

Moos, R. H., & Moos, B. S. (1984). Family Environment Scale test and manual. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.

Olson, D. H., Portner, J., & Lavee, Y. (1985). FACES III. St. Paul: University of Minnesota, Department of Family Science.

Reid, M. J., Webster-Stratton, C., Beauchaine, T. P. (2001). Parent training in Head Start: A comparison of program response among African American, Asian American, Caucasian, and Hispanic mothers. Prevention Science, 2(4), 209–227.

Shelton, K. K., Frick, P. J., & Wooten, J. (1996). Assessment of parenting practices in families of elementary school-age children. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 25, 317–329.

Spoth, R., Redmond, C., & Shin, C. (1998). Direct and indirect latent-variable parenting outcomes of two universal family-focused preventive interventions: Extending a public health-oriented research base. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 66(2), 385–399.

Strayhorn, J. M., & Weidman, C. S. (1988). A parent practices scale and its relation to parent and child mental health. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 27, 613–618.

Strom, R. D. (1984). Parent as a Teacher inventory manual. Bensenville, IL: Scholastic Testing.

Szapocznik, J., Rio, A. T., Hervis, O. E., Mitrani, V. B., Kurtines, W. M., & Faraci, A. M. (1991). Assessing change in family functioning as a result of treatment: The Structural Family Systems Rating Scale (SFSR). Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 17, 295–310.

Tolan, P. H., Gorman-Smith, D., Huesmann, L. R., & Zelli, A. (1997). Assessment of family relationship characteristics: A measure to explain risk for antisocial behavior and depression among urban youth. Psychological Assessment, 9, 212–223.

Webster-Stratton, C. (1985). Dyadic Parent-Child Interactive Coding System Revised (DPICS-R): Manual. Unpublished manual. University of Washington.

¹ For more information go to

Margaret Caspe, Consultant, HFRP

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