Oct 07, 2010


The Adolescent Transitions Program (ATP) is a comprehensive, multi-tiered intervention, designed to reduce risk for problem behavior and substance use in middle school students of varied risk levels. It uses a multi-tiered (or multilevel) approach by incorporating a universal approach (for all middle school students and their parents), a selected approach (for at-risk students and their parents), and an indicated approach (for high risk students and their parents). Each tier builds on the other, so families receiving indicated services also benefit from universal and selective components of the intervention and families receiving selective services also benefit from the universal component. Results of a longitudinal, randomized trial found that,despite relatively low levels of engagement in the selected and indicated interventions, the intervention reduced the incidence of substance use. Impacts on other problem behaviors were not analyzed. Specifically, Child Trends estimated that the program had a small impact on the likelihood of using substances (effect size = 0.19).

Description of the Program

Target Population: Middle school students (Grades 6 to 8)

ATP is a three-year prevention and intervention program that serves students and their families throughout middle school to reduce problem behavior and substance use. It is comprised of three components: a universal component (the Family Resource Room), a selective component (The Family Check-up), and an indicated component which provides direct professional support to parents to address issues identified by the Family Check-Up and participation in the Family Resource Room. Each component is described below:

Universal Tier: The Family Resource Room (FRR)

The FRR targets parents of all the students in a middle school. The program collaborates with key school personnel to develop a positive behavior support plan that bridges home and school, so that students experience similar rules and expectations in both contexts and so that parents and teachers are in communication with one another about how youth are conducting themselves in school. The FRR seeks to engage parents, establish norms for parenting practices, educate parents about the risks for problem behavior and substance use, and teach family management skills. The videotape, “Parenting in the Teenage Years” teaches parents how to identify signs of problem behaviors and substance use and demonstrates effective parenting practices, such as positive reinforcement, monitoring, limit-setting, and effective relationships skills. Parents also learn how to use a simple rating form to help them identify risk factors while interacting with their children. Services, provided by the FRC, include the following:

1)School-based intervention. This intervention has a six-week health curriculum called “SHAPe” (Success, Health, and Peace Curriculum) that seeks to reduce problem behavior and substance use and promote school success. Classes are delivered by a FRR consultant and include weekly parent-child homework exercises which are graded to maximize parent and student engagement. Weekly newsletters summarize information learned in class and offer additional information on “family norms and practices that promote teenager’s social and academic success” (Dishion & Kavanaugh, 2000).

2)Child-centered intervention. This intervention teaches youth skills for self control, problem solving, and positive interactions with family and peers. These typically occur at the same time as meetings with caregivers.

3)Brief family-centered intervention. Three face-to-face meetings with caregivers to teach family management practices and provide positive behavior support.

4)Parent group meetings. Guided by the Family Management Curriculum (Dishion, Kavanagh, Veltman, McCartney, & Stormshak, 2005), parent group meetings help families improve family management skills, such as making requests; using rewards; monitoring; making rules; providing reasonable consequences for rule violations; solving problems; and engaging in active listening. The curriculum uses group discussion, practice, role-plays, and activities to implement at home. Parents also watch six videos that show ineffective and effective parenting practices. The meetings are facilitated by one or two leaders and a parent consultant who has completed the program. Parents meet for 90 minutes, once a week, for 12 weeks and receive weekly mid-week phone contact from the group leader. After completing the group meetings, families receive four individual family meetings and participate in monthly booster sessions for at least 3 months.

5)Behavioral Family therapy. Families meet once or twice a week with the parent consultant for one month to one year, depending on how long it takes to meet a family’s goals.

6)Ecological Management and Advocacy. Parent consultants work collaboratively with service providers to support families and make sure they are receiving adequate services.

Selective Tier: The Family Check-Up

The Family Check-Up targets students who are identified as being at risk for problem behavior and substance use. It begins with a 60-minute interview is conducted by a family consultant (school-home liaison), during which the family is oriented to the program and the needs of the family are discussed. Next, a home visit is scheduled to conduct an “ecological assessment” of the family’s strengths and needs; family interactions are videotaped and family members complete questionnaires. Also, a feedback session is scheduled, during which a parent consultant provides families with information about their strengths and feedback about practices and behaviors that may be amenable to intervention. At the conclusion of the intervention, Family Consultants discuss service options with families.

Indicated Tier: The Family Intervention Menu

The third tier of the program focuses on the highest-risk students – those already exhibiting problem behaviors and/or substance use. This tier provides direct professional support to parents to address issues identified by the Family Check-Up and participation in the Family Resource Room.Parents are offered a variety of service options from a “Family Intervention Menu”. This menu includes the following services:

  • a brief face-to-face intervention (two or three sessions);
  • school monitoring systems for academic and social behavior;
  • parent groups;
  • behavioral family therapy;
  • case management; and referral services.

These services use various delivery formats to build caregivers’ family management skills (using incentives and encouragement to promote positive behavior change; limit-setting and limit-monitoring; and family communication and problem-solving skills).


Dishion, T. J., Kavanagh, K., Schneiger, A., Nelson, S., & Kaufman, N. K (2002). Preventing early adolescent substance use: A  familycentered strategy for the public middleschoolPrevention Science, 3(3), 191-201.

Evaluated Population: The study followed 672 sixth-grade students and their families from three middle schools located in an ethnically diverse community. The sample gender balanced (52 percent male) and predominantly European American (41 percent) and African American (32 percent); Hispanic, Asian, and Native American students made up the remaining 17 percent of the sample.

Approach: All sixth-grade students from three middle schools were invited to participate in the program. Recruited families were randomly assigned at the individual level to a control condition or the ATP intervention. All students and were followed from Grades 6 to 9, with ninth grade being the first year of high school.

Youth reported about their cigarette and alcohol use in the past month at the end of sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth grades. The two items were combined into one yes-no indicator of substance use. Parent engagement data were collected from sixth to eighth grade.

Results: At the one-year follow up in ninth grade, students in the ATP group had slower increases in substance us than students in the control group (with a small effect size estimated by Child Trends staff to be 0.19). Typically developing youth benefited as much as at-risk youth.


Dishion, T. J., Kavanagh, K., Schneiger, A., Nelson, S., & Kaufman, N. K (2002). Preventing early adolescent substance use: A  familycentered strategy for the public middleschoolPrevention Science, 3(3), 191-201.

Dishion, T. J., Kavanagh, K., Veltman, M., McCartney, T., & Stormshak, E. A. (2005). Family Management Curriculum Ver. 2.0: Leader’s guide. Eugene, OR: Child and Family Center Publications (


The curriculum can be purchased online at:

For training and materials costs, contact:

Ann Simas, Publications Specialist

Child and Family Center, University of Oregon

195 West 12th Avenue

Eugene, OR 97401-3408

Phone: (541) 346-1983 Fax: (541) 346-4858

Web: http://cfc.uoregon.e

To schedule training, for programmatic or research questions, or for billable technical assistance contact:

Phone: (503) 282-3662 Fax: (503) 282-3808

KEYWORDS: Adolescents (12-17), Middle School, Co-Ed, High-Risk, Alcohol Use, Middle School, Marijuana/Illicit/Prescription Drugs, Other Substance Use,  Parent or Family Component, Parent Training/Education, Skills Training, Counseling/Therapy, Home Visitation, School-Based, Manual.

Program information last updated on 10/7/10.