Mar 30, 2010


The Adolescent Transitions Program – Teen Focus intervention is one component developed as part of the Adolescent Transitions program. This intervention involves delivering a cognitive-behavioral curriculum to small groups of middle school students. An evaluation of this intervention found no impacts on externalizing or acting out behaviors or on self-reported tobacco use at posttest. Negative impacts of the intervention were found one year after program completion, with intervention students rated as having higher levels of antisocial behavior and tobacco use than control group students.

Description of the Program

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

The ATP Teen Focus condition uses a cognitive-behavioral curriculum developed by Botvin and Wills in the mid-1980s to reduce adolescent problem behavior (Botvin & Wills, 1985). The curriculum teaches self-regulation and monitoring skills, goal-setting skills, problem-solving skills, and communication skills with parents and peers. Teens were responsible for selecting their own goals for changing their behavior.

Small groups of 7 to 8 teens met weekly, for 12, 90-minute sessions (18 hours of total contact). The curriculum emphasizes behavior modeling by employing a peer counselor who has successfully completed the modeling component, although parent-child activities were occasionally included in skill development exercises. Group incentives such as pizza and art projects were offered to encourage attendance, homework completion and supportive behaviors among group


Dishion TJ, & Andrews DW. (1995). Preventing escalation in problem behaviors with high-risk young adolescents: Immediate and 1-year outcomes. Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology, 63(4), 538-548.

Evaluated population: This study evaluated 158 families with high-risk children 11 to 14 years of age–with 83 boys and 75 girls. Adolescents were between 11 and 14 years of age, with a mean age of 12 years. Whites comprised 95% of the study population, and nearly one-quarter of families had an annual income below $10,000.

Approach: Self-referred families participated in an initial telephone screen to assess risk factor status. If the adolescent met enrollment criteria, the family was randomly assigned to one of the study conditions: Parent Focus; Teen Focus; Parent and Teen Focus; and self-directed. The self-directed group received intervention materials only (in the form of 6 newsletters and 5 videotapes) and did not receive group sessions or meet with a therapist. A control group, which was quasi-experimental and received no intervention, was also included. Because these two latter groups were not statistically different from one another at program completion or at the one-year follow-up, they were collapsed into one group for the analysis.

Outcomes were assessed using parent and teacher-rated child behavior inventories, student-rated school behaviors, audio-taped problem-solving scenarios, and videotaped family problem-solving sessions and parent-child interactions. Data on smoking behavior were collected via self report and data on externalizing or acting out behaviors were collected via parent and teacher ratings. Families were provided a $10 incentive per hour of the assessment, and teachers were provided an $8 incentive for completing a student assessment.

Results: At posttest, compared to parents in the control group, parents in the Teen Focus condition had less family conflict (in videotaped problem solving tasks) and fewer negative interactions with their children. However negative family events increased.

Although the Teen Focus condition decreased youths’ negative engagement with their parents, it did not improve externalizing behavior or smoking behaviors at posttest. In fact, iatrogenic or harmful program impacts were identified at the one-year follow-up, with externalizing and smoking behaviors increasing at higher rates in students who participated in the Teen Focus condition compared to students in the control group condition.



Dishion, T. J., & Andrews, D. W. (1995). Preventing escalation in problem behaviors with high-risk young adolescents: Immediate and 1-year outcomes. Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology, 63(4), 538-548.

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


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

Kate Kavanagh, Ph.D., Project Alliance
Child and Family Center, University of Oregon
2738 NE Broadway
Portland OR 97232
Phone: (503)- 282-3662 Fax: (503) 282-3808

Program informed by curriculum described in this article:

Botvin G.J., & Wills, T. A. (1985). Personal and social skills training: cognitive-behavioral approaches to substance abuse prevention. NIDA research monograph, 63, 8-49.

KEYWORDS: Adolescents (12-17), Middle School, White/Caucasian, Co-Ed, Substance Use, Smoking, Aggression/Bullying, Rural, Middle School, Substance Use, Skills Training, School-Based, Manual, High-risk, Social Skills/Life Skills.

Program information last updated on 3/30/10.