To What Extent Are Families Participating in Services?

For family-based programs seeking to prevent and reduce adolescent drug and alcohol use, adequate levels of family participation are needed. Low participation in family-based programs is a common problem, especially for higher risk populations. 

Measuring participation is important so that programs can determine whether lack of participation or decreasing levels of participation is a problem. To measure program participation, programs can track number of sessions attended, program start date, and program end date, using an attendance log (see example tool). 

Benchmarks for participation are intended to indicate the level of participation needed for participants to reach desired outcomes. Tentative benchmarks can be obtained by examining levels of participation obtained from evidence-based programs.  For example, the Strengthening Families Program (SFP-10-14) obtained positive impacts on adolescent outcomes even though families attended, on average, about 71 percent of the sessions (about 5 out of 7 sessions). Therefore, for those implementing similar programs, one might set a goal that families attend at least two-thirds of sessions or at least 5 sessions.

If participation rates are low, this may suggest low levels of participant satisfaction and engagement (Aalborg et al., 2009). Other factors, such as scheduling conflicts and time constraints are also common. In a study by Dumas and colleagues (2008), lack of time was the most common reason mentioned for not attending sessions. To determine reasons for low participation, focus groups and interviews led by expert community members external to the program can be conducted with families.

Surveys / Assessments


Sources Cited

Aalborg, A. E., Miller, B. A., Husson, G., et al. (2009). Implementation of two adolescent family-based ATOD prevention programs in health care settings: comparisons across conditions and programs. Unpublished material.

Dumas, J.E., Moreland, A.D., Gitter, A.H., et al (2008). Engaging parents in preventive parenting groups: do ethnic, socioeconomic, and belief match between parents and group leaders matter? Health Education and Behavior, 35, 619–33. doi:10.1177/1090198106291374