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A study that evaluated a wide variety of parenting programs found five that help parents and children avoid teen behavior problems.

“With these programs, you see marked decreases in drug use, reduced aggression, reduced depression and anxiety, and better mental health,” said researcher Kevin Haggerty, assistant director of the University of Washington’s Social Development Research Group in the School of Social Work. “You see the impact of when parents get on the same page and work together to provide an environment that promotes wellbeing. You can make long-term impacts.”

The study appears in the Journal of Children’s Services.

The programs that were found to be effective focus on promoting opportunities, skills and rewards for positive social behaviors, as well as bonding and clear expectations for behavior, reports.

The programs aim to change risk factors such as poor parental supervision and high family conflict. They demonstrate what “normal” family behavior looks like, the article notes.

One of the programs, called Nurse-Family Partnership, sends registered nurses to visit young, single, first-time mothers at least once every two weeks, starting while they are pregnant, and lasting until their child is 2 years old. When the women are pregnant, the nurses help them reduce smoking, drinking and drug use. After the baby is born, the nurses help the mothers create safe environments, and develop ways to deal with difficult behaviors.

Another program, the Incredible Years, is designed to teach children ages 3-6, their parents and teachers ways to handle difficult situations. Therapist-led group sessions teach children to develop skills such as problem solving, making friends, and cooperating with others.

A third program, Staying Connected with Your Teen, is aimed at helping teens avoid risky sexual activity, drug use and violent behavior. Parents are taught to set strong rules against antisocial behavior by increasing parental monitoring, reducing harsh parenting and rewarding teens to promote family bonding.

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