Jul 24, 2007


The Dare to be You (DTBY) program is designed to develop resiliency factors in young children in order to increase resistance alcohol and drug use in the adolescent years. Children ages 2-5 attend a series of workshops with their parents which focus on effective parenting practices and the children’s development. A multi-site evaluation of the DTBY program found that it was effective in increasing parenting competence and satisfaction, as well as increasing positive parenting practices such as limit-setting and reducing harsh discipline. The program was also effective in reducing problem and oppositional behavior in children and increasing their level of development.


Target population: 2-5 year olds in high-risk families who are likely to be at risk for substance abuse

The DARE to be You program (DTBY) was originally designed for children and adolescents ages 5-17 who were considered at risk for substance abuse. In this evaluation, researchers modified the program to focus on children ages 2-5. The program consisted of 10-12 weeks of parent-child workshops which occurred weekly in 2.5 hour sessions. The sessions were designed to educate parents and teach them skills to improve self-efficacy and self esteem, increase the families’ internal locus of control, enhance decision-making skills, master effective child-rearing strategies, improve stress management, learn developmental norms, and strengthen peer support. After parents attended the 10-12 sessions of parent-child workshops, they were also offered the opportunity to attend annual reinforcing workshops which were available at each site in a series of four 2-hour sessions.


Miller-Heyl, J., MacPhee, D., & Fritz, J. J. (1998).DARE to be You: A family-support, early prevention program. The Journal of Primary Prevention, 18(3), 257-284.

Evaluated population: Families were drawn from four different sites intended to have very different demographic composition. The first site consisted of a Native American community, where 75% of high school students had substance abuse problems and 78% of the community was unemployed. The second site was a rural agricultural site with a population consisting of 43% Hispanic families. This site had high unemployment rates (24%), the lowest per capita income in Colorado, low rates of education, and high rates of teen pregnancy, child abuse, and DUI filings. The third site was a semi-rural site which had a high rate of unemployment (12%) and a high rate of poverty (7.8%). This site was mostly composed of white families (81%). The fourth site was an urban area which had the highest rates of child abuse and teen pregnancy in the state. This site was composed of a mix of 53% white, 21% Hispanic, and 16% African American families.

Overall, 168 parents were recruited from the first site, 222 from the second, 215 from the third, and 192 from the fourth. The racial composition of the final sample was as follows: 22% Hispanic, 29% Native American, 2% African American, and 45% white. The median family income was $14,500, and 45% of families were receiving some sort of welfare. The sample was found to have significant problems with teen pregnancy and alcohol and drug abuse. Incentives were provided for participation.

Approach: To qualify for the study, families had to have a child between the ages of 2 and 5 and meet criteria for family risk factors (parenting risk, educational risk, economic risk, mental health risk, substance abuse risk, or psychosocial risk). A small percentage of families was recruited specifically because they had no risk factors to compare treatment for relatively healthy families with families who were clearly at risk. After qualifying for the study, families were randomly assigned to the treatment group or a wait list control group. Families attended parent-child workshops weekly for a total of 8-12 weeks. They were assessed at a pretest, post-test and yearly after the end of the DTBY program. A simultaneous program for children and siblings was designed to reinforce messages addressed in the parent workshops. Also, a 10-30 minute period was allocated to joint parent-child activities.

Results: At the first year follow-up, parents in the treatment group had higher self-rated parenting competence, parenting satisfaction, limit-setting behaviors, and communication with children than parents in the control group. Likewise, parents in the treatment group had lower self-reported use of harsh punishment, attribution of negative events to chance (locus of control measure), and attributions of negative events to lack of effort than parents in the control group. There were no treatment impacts for parent rating of internal locus of control, attributions of negative events to lack of ability, blaming children for negative events, stress levels, rearing children to be autonomous, and providing children with rational guidance. Children in the treatment group were rated as having a higher developmental level and having lower levels of problem and oppositional behaviors than children in the control group.

At the two year follow-up, attribution was 30 percent. Parents in the treatment group maintained higher levels of self-rated parenting competence and parenting satisfaction compared with parents in the control group. Parents in the treatment group had fewer attributions of negative events to lack of ability, lack of effort, or blaming the child. Parents in the treatment group had better ratings of limit-setting behaviors for their children and reduced use of harsh punishment compared with parents in the control group. Parents in the treatment group did not differ from parents in the control group on measures of fostering autonomy in children, communication, rational guidance, locus of control, situational attributions of negative events, and overall stress levels. Children in the treatment group continued to have higher ratings for their developmental level and lower ratings of oppositional behavior compared with children in the control group. Group assignment did not have any impact on child problem behaviors.

Analysis of booster treatment sessions, which were conducted after the initial workshops were finished, showed that the sessions did not have any major impact on any variables. The authors concluded that these sessions are not essential to the DTBY program. Few site differences were observed, suggesting that the program was effective across a range of racial and social groups.


Link to program curriculum:


Miller-Heyl, J., MacPhee, D., & Fritz, J. J. (1998). DARE to be You: A family-support, early prevention program. The Journal of Primary Prevention, 18(3), 257-284.

KEYWORDS: Substance Use, Illicit Drugs, Alcohol Use, Early Childhood, Toddlers, Children, Social/Emotional Health, High-risk, rural, urban, Native American, Hispanic, White, Clinic-based, Family Therapy, Child Care, Behavioral Problems

Program information last updated 7/24/07