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An Australian adaptation of the Strengthening Families Program: Parent and child mental health outcomes from a pilot study

Burn, M., Lewis, A.ORCID: 0000-0002-2519-7976, McDonald, L. and Toumbourou, J.W. (2019) An Australian adaptation of the Strengthening Families Program: Parent and child mental health outcomes from a pilot study. Australian Psychologist, 54 (4). pp. 261-271.

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This is the first pilot study to examine the Australian adaptation of the Strengthening Families Program (SFP), a manualised family intervention recommended internationally in evidence reviews to improve family functioning and child mental health. The study compared two versions (8 vs. 14‐session) and longitudinally evaluated outcomes for child emotional and behavioural difficulties, and parental psychological distress.


Fifty‐eight families from disadvantaged primary schools in regional Victoria with children 8–12 years (80.6% of initially enrolled families, 62 parents and 74 children) completed the program and evaluation measures. Measures were repeated at pre‐, post‐, and 3‐month follow‐up and included the Kessler 6, the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, and subscales adapted from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children and Communities that Care Youth Survey.


The program showed significant reductions in child difficulties and parental psychological distress from pre‐ to post‐measurements that were sustained at follow‐up. Reductions in parental psychological distress were significantly associated with reductions in child difficulties at follow‐up. The 8‐ and 14‐session formats were not found to be significantly different in reducing child difficulties or parental psychological distress. Effect sizes for the Australian version were similar to those reported in previous U.S. trials.


Findings support the feasibility and effectiveness of an Australian adaptation of the SFP. The current study is unique in identifying similar outcomes for shorter and longer versions of the intervention. It is recommended that the 8‐session Australian version is examined in a larger randomised controlled trial where children present with behavioural and emotional problems.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Psychology and Exercise Science
Publisher: Wiley
Copyright: © 2019 The Australian Psychological Society
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