Please take our brief survey

Blueprints Programs = Positive Youth Development

Return to Search Results

Model Program Seal

New Beginnings (for children of divorce)

Blueprints Program Rating: Model

A 10-session group program, with two individual sessions, for divorced mothers and their children to promote resilience in children after parental divorce.

  • Sharlene Wolchik, Ph.D.
  • Arizona State University
  • Prevention Research Center
  • Psychology North, Suite 205
  • wolchik@asu.edu
  • Antisocial-aggressive Behavior
  • Close Relationships with Parents
  • Externalizing
  • Internalizing
  • Mental Health - Other
  • Reciprocal Parent-Child Warmth
  • Sexual Risk Behaviors

    Program Type

    • Cognitive-Behavioral Training
    • Parent Training

    Program Setting

    • Community (e.g., religious, recreation)
    • Mental Health/Treatment Center

    Continuum of Intervention

    • Selective Prevention (Elevated Risk)

    A 10-session group program, with two individual sessions, for divorced mothers and their children to promote resilience in children after parental divorce.

      Population Demographics

      The New Beginnings Program works with divorced mothers and their children between ages 8 and 15.

      Age

      • Late Childhood (5-11) - K/Elementary
      • Early Adolescence (12-14) - Middle School
      • Late Adolescence (15-18) - High School

      Gender

      • Male and Female

      Race/Ethnicity

      • All Race/Ethnicity

      Race/Ethnicity/Gender Details

      Samples in the two studies were primarily Caucasian (approximately 90%).

      • Family
      • Individual
      Risk Factors
      • Family: Family transitions and mobility, Neglectful parenting*, Parent stress, Psychological aggression/discipline*, Violent discipline
      Protective Factors
      • Individual: Coping Skills*, Problem solving skills
      • Family: Attachment to parents*, Non-violent discipline*, Opportunities for prosocial involvement with parents, Parent social support, Rewards for prosocial involvement with parents

      *Risk/Protective Factor was significantly impacted by the program.

      See also: New Beginnings (for children of divorce) Logic Model (PDF)

      The New Beginnings program is a group-based intervention for divorced mothers and their children that consists of 10 two-hour group sessions held either for mothers or concurrently for mothers and their children. Groups are led by two master's level clinicians. The intervention focuses on changing aspects of the child's environment that directly involve the child, including increasing effective discipline strategies, increasing mother-child relationship quality and decreasing exposure to interparental conflict. There are two individual phone sessions that are structured, but also allow for tailoring the program to specific needs. Program skills are taught through presentations, role-playing, and videotapes.

      The dual-component intervention (for mothers and their children), consists of group sessions focused on changing behaviors that have been found to predict postdivorce adjustment problems, including coping strategies, mother-child relationship quality and interparental conflict.

      The mother-only program is certified as Model by Blueprints, as this program has been replicated. The dual-component (for both mothers and children) is certified as Promising only, as this program has no replication.

      The New Beginnings program is a group-based intervention for divorced mothers and their children. The program consists of 10 group sessions that are 2 hours each. In addition to the group sessions, there are two individual sessions (1½ hour) that focus on helping parents to use the program skills with their children and tailoring the program skills to a family’s needs. Activities in the group sessions focus on teaching skills such as good listening skills, anger management, effective consequences for child behavior and doing positive family activities. The program is highly structured and includes videotaped modeling and role-playing to demonstrate program skills. Home practice is also assigned to encourage parents to practice the program skills.

      The dual-component intervention includes group sessions (1.75 hours each) for children that are held concurrently with the program for parents. Groups are co-led by two clinicians. Children are taught skills such as recognizing and labeling feelings, using relaxation techniques, problem-solving and positive cognitive re-framing. Skills are taught through presentations, videotapes, games, role-plays and conjoint sessions with the mothers.

      The mother-only program is certified as Model by Blueprints, as this program has been replicated. The dual-component (for both mothers and children) is Promising only, as this program has no replication.

      The overall program goals are based on small theory approach. Here, preventive interventions for children from divorced families should focus on changing characteristics that have been shown to predict postdivorce adjustment problems, including parent-child relationship quality, effective discipline, and interparental conflict. Therefore, the program targets a specific set of empirically supported correlates of children's adjustment problems. These included mother-child relationship quality, discipline strategies and child’s exposure to interparental conflict. The clinical methods used to teach the program skills were based on social learning and cognitive behavioral principles of behavior change. Children were taught skills such as recognizing and labeling feelings, problem solving and positive cognitive re-framing.

      • Cognitive Behavioral
      • Social Learning

      The strongest evaluation utilized an experimental design with 240 pairs of divorced mothers and children who were randomly assigned to one of two intervention conditions: mother only or dual component (mother-child). The control condition was a self-study or literature control program in which subjects received three books and a syllabus to guide their reading. Participants were recruited through divorce decrees filed in Maricopa County, Arizona, as well as through media advertisements. Data were collected at four time points: baseline, postintervention, 6-month follow-up, and 6-year follow-up. Outcome measures included internalizing and externalizing behaviors, as well as mental health problems and disorders, substance use, risky sexual behavior, and GPA. Mediating factors related to the outcomes included mother-child relationship quality and effective discipline strategies. A second randomized trial was conducted with a smaller sample (94 families) and used the mother-only intervention.

      Comparing the program to a control group at posttest, the mother program showed significant main effects for 2 of 4 outcomes and 4 of 16 putative mediators reported by Wolchik et al. (2000) and 1 of 5 outcomes and 5 of 19 putative mediators reported by Wolchik et al. (1993). Mother and child reported internalizing and externalizing problems, as well as mother-child relationship quality, effective discipline strategies, validation of content, attitudes toward the father-child relationship, and attending showed significant improvements (Wolchik et al., 2000).

      At the 6-month follow-up, the mother program improved on 1 of 4 outcomes and 1 of 11 putative mediators, compared to the control group, with externalizing problems and observed attending showing significant improvements (Wolchik et al., 2000).

      Comparing the mother program and the dual component program, significant differences were observed for 0 of 4 outcomes at posttest and 4 of 16 putative mediators at posttest and 0 of 4 outcomes and 1 of 11 putative mediators at the 6-month follow-up (Wolchik et al., 2000). Improvements for the mother program were observed for avoidant coping and observed attending at posttest and active coping at the follow-up, while active coping and support coping at posttest were improved for the dual-component program.

      At the 6-year follow-up, compared to the control group, the mother program showed no significant main effects, while the mother and child program showed significant main effects on externalizing behaviors, diagnosis of a mental health disorder, and number of sexual partners. Also, significant program-by-baseline outcome interactions showed program benefits for those with higher baseline problems on externalizing problems, mental disorder symptom count, alcohol use, marijuana use, and other drug use.

      Teacher reports at posttest showed the mother program and the mother plus child program worsened shy-anxious behaviors compared to the control group, though this outcome showed no significant differences across conditions at the 6-month follow-up (Wolchik et al., 2000). No other analyses examined this outcome. A potentially iatrogenic effect was also reported for support from nonparental adults, which showed improvement in the control group compared to the mother program (Wolchik at al., 1993).

      Several studies included analyses of moderation and mediation effects. Concerning moderation, program effects were generally greater for children or families with the highest risk scores (Dawson-McClure et al., 2004; Wolchik et al., 1993; Wolchik et al., 2000; Wolchik et al., 2002). Concerning mediation of the program effects at the 6-year follow-up, improvement in mother-child relationship quality mediated program effects on mental health problems for those with high baseline risk for maladjustment (Zhou et al., 2008) and improvement in parental monitoring mediated program effects on alcohol and drug use for those at high baseline risk for maladjustment (Soper et al., 2010). Also, program-induced improvements in mother-child relationship and discipline at posttest improved internalizing and externalizing at the 3-month and 6-month follow-ups, which in turn led to better outcomes relating to academics, self-esteem, mental health, drug use, and risky sexual behavior at the 6-year follow-up (McClain et al., 2010). A test of mediation (Tein et al., 2004) found that the intervention-induced improvement in discipline and mother-child relationship quality at posttest reduced externalizing problems at the 6-month follow-up, with the mediating effects occurring primarily for children with poorer baseline scores.

      A second study showed positive program effects for child reported aggression and parent reported communication, positive routines, control, and willingness to change visitation (Wolchik et al., 1993).

      At posttest, the mother program showed significant improvements compared to the control group on the following outcomes and mediators:

      • Internalizing and externalizing problems (Wolchik et al., 2000)
      • Child reported aggression (Wolchik et al., 1993)
      • Parent reported communication, positive routines, control, and willingness to change visitation (Wolchik at al., 1993)
      • Active coping, avoidant coping, support coping, and observed attending (compared to dual component program; Wolchik et al., 2000)

      Significant Program Effects on Risk and Protective Factors:

      • Mother–child relationship quality, effective discipline strategies, observed validation of content, and observed attending (Wolchik et al., 2000)

      At the 6-month follow-up, the mother program showed significant improvements compared to the control group on the following outcome and mediators (Wolchik et al., 2000):

      • Externalizing problems
      • Observed attending
      • Dual Component Program showed significant improvement in Active Coping Strategies (compared to mother plus child program)

      At the six-year follow-up (Wolchik et al., 2002), compared to the control group, the mother program showed no significant main effects, while the mother and child program showed significant main effects on:

      • externalizing behaviors
      • number of sexual partners
      • diagnosis of mental health disorder

      At the 15-year follow-up, the combined intervention groups (mother and dual component programs) showed improvements on (Wolchik et al., 2013):

      • Internalizing disorder

      Several studies demonstrated mediation consistent with the logic model of the program. First, improved discipline and mother-child relationship quality at posttest due to the interventions reduced externalizing problems at the 6-month follow-up (Tein et al., 2009). Second, program-induced improvement in mother-child relationship quality reduced mental health problems at the 6-year follow-up for those with high baseline risk for maladjustment (Zhou et al., 2008). Third, program-induced improvement in parental monitoring reduced alcohol and drug use at the 6-year follow-up for those at high risk for maladjustment at program entry (Soper et al., 2010). Fourth, program-induced improvement in mother-child relationship quality and discipline at posttest improved internalizing and externalizing at the 3-month and 6-month follow-ups, which in turn led to better outcomes relating to academics, self-esteem, mental health, drug use, and risky sexual behavior at the 6-year follow-up (McClain et al., 2010).

      Moderated effects indicated that the mother program showed improvements for higher risk individuals or families on:

      • Externalizing behaviors at posttest (compared to control) and at the 6-month follow-up (compared to dual component program; Wolchik et al., 2000)
      • Externalizing behaviors, count of mental disorder symptoms, and alcohol, marijuana, and other drug use at the 6-year follow-up (compared to control; Wolchik et al., 2002)
      • Parent reported behavior problems, child reported acceptance/rejection, and parent reported consistency of discipline and negative divorce events at posttest (compared to control; Wolchik et al., 1993)
      • Internalizing, externalizing, competence, substance use, and mental disorder at the 6-year follow-up (compared to control; Dawson-McClure et al., 2004)
      • Mother-child relationship quality, attitude toward father-child relationship, and interparental conflict at posttest (compared to control; Wolchik et al., 2000)

      Moderated effects indicated that the dual component program showed improvements for higher risk individuals or families on:

      • Attitude toward the father-child relationship, threat appraisal, and distraction coping at posttest (compared to mother program; Wolchik et al., 2000)
      • Externalizing behaviors and mental disorder symptom count at the 6-year follow-up (compared to control; Wolchik et al., 2002)
      • Internalizing, externalizing, and competence at the 6-year follow-up (compared to control; Dawson-McClure et al., 2004)

      Additional moderation analyses indicated:

      • Improvements among low risk families on father-child contact effects at the 6-month follow-up for the mother program compared to dual component program (Wolchik et al., 2000)
      • Improvements among low risk families on distraction coping at posttest and conversational latitude at 6-month follow-up of the dual component program compared to mother program (Wolchik et al., 2000)
      • An iatrogenic effect for children with high baseline depression levels on child reported depression at posttest, though this effect does not remain significant if an outlier is deleted (Wolchik et al., 1993)

      At posttest and 6-month follow-up, effect sizes for significant internalizing and externalizing behaviors ranged from small to moderate (.22 to .57). For the mediators, effect sizes for most significant outcomes ranged from small to large (.22 to .80). There were two exceptions: A strong effect (d = 1.14) of open-ended coping strategies emerged at posttest for the dual-component vs. mother-only intervention. Additionally, there were weak effects (d = .14) of father-child contact for high-risk children in the dual-component intervention, when compared to the mother-only condition.

      At the 6-year follow-up, the mother-child program had an effect size of .49 on the number of sexual partners. Odds ratios reported for diagnoses of any mental or drug use disorders were 2.83 (a moderate effect size), and odds ratios reported for diagnoses of any mental disorder were 4.50 (a large effect size). The mother-only program and control comparisons showed significant group by baseline interactions on externalizing problems, mental disorder symptom count, alcohol, marijuana, and other drug use. For each interaction, the program benefit was strongest for those with higher baseline problems.

      At the 15-year follow-up, the combined intervention group (mother and dual component programs) showed medium-large to large effects on internalizing disorder, with odds ratios of .26 to .34 (Wolchik et al., 2013).

      The sample was English speaking, largely Caucasian (88%), and confined to the Phoenix area. The median yearly income of the mothers was in the range of $20,000 - $25,000, suggesting the sample was composed of relatively low-income families. In other ways, the narrow sample – recent divorce, no remarriage or new partner, stable custody, children without special learning or behavioral problems, and other inclusion criteria – limits the generalizability of the results. The intervention sometimes had more benefits for higher-risk children.

      • Results of the 6-month follow-up were weak and inconsistent – only 8 of 60 tests reached statistical significance.
      • Limited generalizability due to a relatively homogeneous sample, with 88% being Caucasian, and a set of narrow inclusion criteria. Recruitment of 240 from 671 eligible mother-child pairs represents a low participation rate, and analysis of non-participants revealed selection bias favoring inclusion of subjects with more education, higher income, and fewer children.
      • With dozens of mediating, moderating, and outcome variables used across the same subjects, there is the potential to emphasize only the subset of results that produced positive findings.
      • Many follow-up outcomes were not measured at baseline, requiring use of proxy baseline control measures.
      • Most results held only for those at high risk.
      • The benefits of the mother-only program occurred for those who entered the program with high risk.
      • An iatrogenic effect emerged at posttest with both programs worsening shy-anxious behaviors based on teacher reports.
      • Externalizing behavior improved in the early waves but not the 6-year (mother program) or 15-year (combined intervention group) follow-up, while internalizing behavior improved at the 15-year follow-up (combined intervention group) but not in the 6-month or 6-year follow-up.

      Wolchik et al. (2007) described the theory and implementation of the program in a book chapter. Although this chapter also briefly described some program effects from the 6-year follow-up, it did not present enough new information to include as a separate part of Study 1. The analyses combined the dual component and the mother program together to compare the intervention to control participants, finding results similar to those of the dual component program in Wolchik et al. (2002). Significant treatment effects were reported for diagnosis of a mental disorder, number of sexual partners, and grade point average, though the description focused on the strengthened program effects for those entering with higher risk, which were noted for a variety of outcomes.

      Wolchik, S., Sandler, I., Weiss, L., & Winslow, E. (2007). New Beginnings: An empirically based program to help divorced mothers promote resilience in their children. In J. M. Briesmeister, & C. E. Schaefer, Handbook of parent training: Helping parents prevent and solve problem behaviors (pp.25-62). New York: John Wiley & Sons.

      • Blueprints: Model

      MeriBeth Adams-Wolf MA/LCAC/NCACII
      Our Place Drug and Alcohol Education Svcs
      400 E. Spring Street
      New Albany, In 47150
      812-945-3400

      www.ourplaceinc.org

      mbadamswolf@ourplaceinc.org

      Suzanne M. Schunk, LCSW
      Vice President of Family Support Services
      2850 N. 24th Streeet,
      Phoenix, AZ 85008
      Main (602) 266-5976
      Direct: (602) 224-1744
      sschunk@swhd.org

      Dawson-McClure, S. R., Sandler, I. N., Wolchik, S. A., & Millsap, R. E. (2004). Risk as a moderator of the effects of prevention programs for children from divorced families: A six-year longitudinal study. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 32(2), 175-190.

      McClain, D. B., Wolchik, A. S., Winslow, E., Tein, J., Sandler, I., & Millsap, R. E. (2010). Developmental cascade effects of the New Beginnings Program on adolescent adaptation outcomes. Development and Psychopathology, 22(4), 771-784.

      Soper, A. C., Wolchik, S. A., Tein, J.-Y., & Sandler, I. N. (2010). Mediation of a preventive intervention’s 6-year effects on health risk behaviors. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 24(2), 300-310.

      Tein, J., Sandler, I. N., MacKinnon, D. P., & Wolchik, S. A. (2004). How did it work? Who did it work for? Mediation in the context of a moderated prevention effect for children of divorce. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 72(4), 617-624.

      Wolchik, S., Sandler, I., Millsap, R. E., Plummer, B. A., Greene, S. M., Anderson, E. R., ... Haine, R. A. (2002). Six-year follow-up of preventive interventions for children of divorce: A randomized controlled trial. JAMA, 288(15), 1874-1881.

      Wolchik, S., West, S. Sandler, I., Tein, J., Coatsworth, L., Weiss, L., ... Griffin, W. (2000). An experimental evaluation of theory-based mother and mother-child programs for children of divorce. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 68(5), 843-856.

      Wolchik, S., West, S., Westover, S., Sandler, I., Martin, A., Lustig, J., ... Fisher, J. (1993). The children of divorce parenting intervention: Outcome evaluation of an empirically based program. American Journal of Community Psychology, 21(3), 293-331.

      Wolchik, S. A., Sandler, I., Tein, J.-Y., Mahrer, N., Millsap, R., Winslow, E., ... Reed, A. (2013). Fifteen-year follow-up of a randomized trial of a preventive intervention for divorced families: Effects on mental health and substance use outcomes in young adulthood. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 81(4), 660-673.

      Zhou, Q., Sandler, I. N., Millsap, R. E., Wolchik, S. A., & Dawson-McClure, S. R. (2008). Mother-child relationship quality and effective discipline as mediators of the 6-year effects of new beginnings program for children from divorced families. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 76(4), 579-594.

      Sharlene Wolchik
      Prevention Research Center
      Psychology North, Suite 205
      Arizona State University
      sharlene.wolchik@asu.edu

      Study 1

      Dawson-McClure, S. R., Sandler, I. N., Wolchik, S. A., & Millsap, R. E. (2004). Risk as a moderator of the effects of prevention programs for children from divorced families: A six-year longitudinal study. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 32(2), 175-190.

      McClain, D. B., Wolchik, A. S., Winslow, E., Tein, J., Sandler, I., & Millsap, R. E. (2010). Developmental cascade effects of the New Beginnings Program on adolescent adaptation outcomes. Development and Psychopathology, 22(4), 771-784.

      Soper, A. C., Wolchik, S. A., Tein, J.-Y., & Sandler, I. N. (2010). Mediation of a preventive intervention’s 6-year effects on health risk behaviors. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 24(2), 300-310.

      Tein, J., Sandler, I., MacKinnon, D. P., & Wolchik, S. A. (2004). How did it work? Who did it work for? Mediation in the context of a moderated prevention effect for children of divorce. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 72(4), 617-624.

      Wolchik, S., Sandler, I., Millsap, R. E., Plummer, B. A., Greene, S. M., Anderson, E. R., ... Haine, R. A. (2002). Six-year follow-up of preventive interventions for children of divorce: A randomized controlled trial. JAMA, 288(15), 1874-1881.

      Wolchik, S. A., Sandler, I., Tein, J.-Y., Mahrer, N., Millsap, R., Winslow, E., ... Reed, A. (2013). Fifteen-year follow-up of a randomized trial of a preventive intervention for divorced families: Effects on mental health and substance use outcomes in young adulthood. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 81(4), 660-673.

      Wolchik, S., West, S. Sandler, I., Tein, J., Coatsworth, L., Weiss, L., ... Griffin, W. (2000). An experimental evaluation of theory-based mother and mother-child programs for children of divorce. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 68(5), 843-856.

      Zhou, Q., Sandler, I. N., Millsap, R. E., Wolchik, S. A., & Dawson-McClure, S. R. (2008). Mother-child relationship quality and effective discipline as mediators of the 6-year effects of new beginnings program for children from divorced families. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 76(4), 579-594.

      Study 2

      Wolchik, S., West, S., Westover, S., Sandler, I., Martin, A., Lustig, J., ... Fisher, J. (1993). The children of divorce parenting intervention: Outcome evaluation of an empirically based program. American Journal of Community Psychology, 21(3), 293-331.

      Wolchik, S., West, S. Sandler, I., Tein, J., Coatsworth, L., Weiss, L., ... Griffin, W. (2000). An experimental evaluation of theory-based mother and mother-child programs for children of divorce. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 68. (5), 843-856.

      Tein, J., Sandler, I., MacKinnon, D. P., & Wolchik, S. A. (2004). How did it work? Who did it work for? Mediation in the context of a moderated prevention effect for children of divorce. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 72. (4), 617-624.

      Wolchik, S., Sandler, I., Millsap, R. E., Plummer, B. A., Greene, S. M., Anderson, E. R., ... Haine, R. A. (2002). Six-year follow-up of preventive interventions for children of divorce: A randomized controlled trial. JAMA, 288. (15), 1874-1881.

      Wolchik, S. A., Sandler, I., Tein, J.-Y., Mahrer, N., Millsap, R., Winslow, E., ... Reed, A. (2013). Fifteen-year follow-up of a randomized trial of a preventive intervention for divorced families: Effects on mental health and substance use outcomes in young adulthood. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 81. (4), 660-673.

      Dawson-McClure, S. R., Sandler, I. N., Wolchik, S. A., & Millsap, R. E. (2004). Risk as a moderator of the effects of prevention programs for children from divorced families: A six-year longitudinal study. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 32. (2), 175-190.

      Zhou, Q., Sandler, I. N., Millsap, R. E., Wolchik, S. A., & Dawson-McClure, S. R. (2008). Mother-child relationship quality and effective discipline as mediators of the 6-year effects of new beginnings program for children from divorced families. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 76. (4), 579-594.

      Soper, A. C., Wolchik, S. A., Tein, J.-Y., & Sandler, I. N. (2010). Mediation of a preventive intervention’s 6-year effects on health risk behaviors. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors,. 24. (2), 300-310.

      McClain, D. B., Wolchik, A. S., Winslow, E., Tein, J., Sandler, I., & Millsap, R. E. (2010). Developmental cascade effects of the New Beginnings Program on adolescent adaptation outcomes. Development and Psychopathology, 22. (4),. 771-784.

      Evaluation Methodology

      Eight articles use the same data set, with two examining posttest and 6-month follow-up data, five others examining 6-year follow-up data, and one examining 15-year follow-up data.

      Design.: Data were collected at six time points – baseline (pre-intervention), post-intervention, 3-month follow-up, 6-month follow-up, 6-year follow-up, and 15-year follow-up. At the start, 240 families were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: (a) program for custodial mothers (n = 81), (b) dual-component (mother and child) intervention (n = 83), or (c) literature control condition (n = 76) based on reading books on postdivorce adjustment. At 6 years, the sample fell to 218, indicating about 9% attrition. At 15 years, 90% of the sample participated in the interviews.

      Recruitment:. Court records identified 1,816 randomly selected divorce decrees in Maricopa County (Phoenix, AZ) that (a) occurred within 2 years of the intervention start date and (b) involved a child between ages 9 and 12. Letters and phone calls to these individuals were the primary means of recruitment, but media advertisements were used to recruit 20% of the final sample.

      Of all the families contacted (either from court records or through media advertisements), 671 were deemed eligible after an initial screening over the phone. Of these families, 48% (n = 453) completed a recruitment visit; 75% (n = 341) of the recruitment-visit completers agreed to participate in the intervention study; 92% (n = 315) of these families completed the pretest. After the pre-test interview, 16% (n = 49) were deemed ineligible, and an additional 8% (n = 26) withdrew before assignment to treatment or control condition, leaving a final sample of 240 families (38% of the eligible families).

      Inclusion Criteria:. Inclusion criteria were (a) divorce was granted within the past 2 years, (b) primary residential parent was female, (c) child was between the ages of 9 and 12, (d) neither the mother nor any residential child was currently in treatment for psychological problems, (e) mother had not remarried, had no live-in boyfriend, and had no plan to remarry during the trial, (f) custody of the child was expected to remain stable over the trial, (g) family resided within a 1-hour drive of the site where the program was delivered, (h) mother and child could complete the assessment battery in English, (i) child was not in a special education program for the mentally challenged or learning disabled and (j) if child had a diagnosis of attention deficit disorder for which he or she was taking medication. In families where more than one child met the criteria, one was randomly selected. Families were excluded and referred to treatment if the child scored above 17 or expressed suicide ideation on the Children's Depression Inventory or had a score above the 97th percentile on the Externalizing subscale of the Child Behavior Checklist.

      Sample Representativeness:. Checks compared 1) a hard-to-locate group with the rest of the sample, 2) intervention acceptors with refusers, and 3) acceptors who were assigned to condition and completed the intervention with withdrawers. First, of the 1,816 families initially identified by court records, 532 were difficult to locate. For those found after special search efforts, members of this hard-to-locate group were more likely to refuse the recruitment visit and intervention than the rest of the sample. Also, children in the hard-to-locate group had significantly higher teacher-reported shy-anxious behavior problems than the rest of the sample. Second, among the full sample, acceptors reported significantly higher incomes and education and fewer children than refusers. Compared to acceptors, children in the refusers group reported more positive coping, and mothers asked more open-ended questions during the mother-child interaction. Third, withdrawers reported less maternal education and lower child support than those assigned to the intervention conditions.

      Attrition. : All participants assigned to the conditions completed the posttest, and 98% (234 out of 240) completed the 6-month follow-up. Of the 83 participants assigned to the dual-component (mother-child intervention), 12% (n = 10) did not complete the program. Of the 81 participants assigned to the mother program, 20% (n = 16) did not complete the program. Consistent with the intent-to-treat principle, the 26 subjects who did not complete the program were included in the analysis because follow-up data was available.

      At the 6-year follow-up, 218 of the 240 randomized (91%) subjects provided data.

      At the 15-year follow-up, 89.6% of families provided some data, as 194 young adults and 204 of the mothers completed the assessment. The rate of completion among young adults for this follow-up was 82% for the intervention group and 79% for the control group.

      Sample.: Maternal ethnicity was as follows: 88% Caucasian, 8% Hispanic, 2% African American, 1% Asian and 1% Other. Mean age of the mothers was 37.3 years. 47% reported completing some college courses. Median yearly income was in the range of $20,001 - $25,000. Legal custody arrangements were 63% sole maternal, 35% joint and 2% split. Mothers had been divorced an average of 12 months and physically separated an average of 27 months. The mean number of children was 2.2. Average age of the interviewed children was 10.4 years, and 49% of the children were female.

      At the 6-year follow-up, 25% of the mothers and 63% of the fathers had remarried (but remarriage rates did not differ significantly across conditions).

      At the 15-year follow-up, children were 25.6 years old on average, and just over half (51%) were married or living as if married. These young adults most commonly achieved some college and their median income was in the $30,000 range.

      Measures.: At all assessments, multimethod, multiagent (mother, child and teacher) assessment was used. Both mothers and children completed questionnaires, assessing putative mediators and psychological adjustment problems. At posttest and the 6-month follow-up, mother-child interactions were videotaped and analyzed for behavioral observation measures (including conversational latitude and attending). Finally, teachers provided reports of children’s adjustment problems, including shy-anxious behaviors and acting out.

      Psychological Adjustment Problems.. The study concentrated on two measures of psychological adjustment. For externalizing behavior problems, mothers completed the 33-item Externalizing subscale of the Child Behavior Checklist. Children completed the Aggression and Delinquency subscales (30 items) of the Youth Self-Report. Teachers completed the 6-item Acting-Out subscale of the Teacher-Child Rating Scale. Pretest alphas were .88, .87 and .90, respectively.

      For internalizing behavior problems, mothers completed the 31-item Internalizing subscale of the Child Behavior Checklist. Children completed the 27-item Children's Depression Inventory and the 28-item Children's Manifest Anxiety Scale. Teachers completed the 6-item Shy-Anxiousness subscale of the Teacher-Child Rating Scale. Pretest alphas were .89, .84, .88 and .82, respectively. Mother and child outcomes were reported as a composite measure.

      Putative Mediators.. Mediating variables used in the analysis included the following:

      • Mother-child relationship quality. - Includes items from the Parent-Adolescent Communication Scale and the Child Report of Parenting Behavior Inventory (CRPBI), as well as videotaped behavioral observation measures. Alphas range from .71 to .86.
      • Discipline. - Both mothers and children completed questionnaires on discipline strategies. Mothers and children were asked about consistency of discipline; mothers were asked about appropriate and inappropriate discipline strategies. Alphas range from .59-.78.
      • Interparental conflict. - Both mothers and children completed subscales of the Children's Perception of Interparental Conflict Scale. Alphas range from .55 to .64.
      • Father-child relationship. - Mothers completed 6 questionnaire items that assessed the support of the noncustodial father-child relationship (alpha = .85).
      • Appraisals of divorce stressors. - Children completed the Threat Appraisal Scale, which includes threats to well being, including negative self-evaluation, rejection by others and loss of desired objects (alpha = .92).
      • Coping. - Children completed 36 items from the Children's Coping Strategies Checklist. Items were added to assess active and avoidant coping mechanisms. Alphas range from .68 to .87.

      Six-Year Follow-up Measures.. Five articles examining the 6-year follow-up data used some previous measures but also added several new ones.

      The follow-up used measures of externalizing problems and internalizing problems similar but not identical to those at earlier assessments. For externalizing problems, the parent rating came from 33 items of the Child Behavior Checklist and the child rating came from 27 items of the Divorce Adjustment Externalizing scale. The two scales were standardized and averaged. For internalizing problems, the parent rating came from 30 items of the Child Behavior Checklist and the child rating came from 28 items of the Revised Children’s Manifest Anxiety Scale. The two scales were again standardized and averaged.

      Outcome measures new to the 6-year follow-up included the following:

      • Diagnosis of any mental disorder and any drug abuse or dependence disorder came from the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for children.
      • Adolescent symptoms of externalizing and internalizing disorders over the past year were measured using the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children. The measure counts the number of symptoms of both externalizing and internalizing disorders.
      • Adolescent substance use measured the frequency of marijuana and alcohol use over the past year. In various studies, substance use was measured as the combined frequency of use, the count of drug dependence or abuse symptoms, polydrug use (number of different drugs used), and other drug use.
      • Competence was measured with 18 items from the Coatsworth Competence Scale and came from both child and mother ratings (alpha = .83 for child report, .85 for mother report).
      • Self-esteem came from the Self-Perception Profile of Children (alpha = .86).
      • Academic performance was assessed using school records and cumulative high school GPA.
      • Risky sexual behavior was measured as the number of sexual partners over the past year.

      The 6-year follow-up studies of moderation and mediation examined several additional measures:

      • A scale of environmental stressors was based on negative events that occurred to the child, interpersonal conflict, maternal distress, reduced contact with father, and per capita income.
      • Negative errors, based on the 50-item Negative Life Events Scale–Child, tallied mean child ratings of the upsettingness of events and negative thinking about the events.
      • Adaptive coping, based on the Children’s Coping Strategies Checklist, measured problem solving, cognitive decision making, optimism, and control.
      • Parental monitoring, based on the 13-item Assessment of Child Monitoring Scale, combined ratings of parent and child.

      The most recent studies also used a new measure of baseline risk. Since not all the outcomes at the 6-year follow-up were measured at baseline, a generalized measure of risk was constructed. It combined measures of externalizing problems and environmental stressors (negative events that occurred to the child, interparental conflict, maternal distress, reduced contact with father, and per capita income).

      Fifteen-Year Follow-Up Outcome Measures. (Wolchik et al., 2013)..

      • Internalizing and externalizing disorders were classified using the Diagnostic Interview Schedule IV. Disorders were assessed since program entry (15 years) and since the last follow-up (9 years).
      • Recent internalizing and externalizing problems were determined using subscales of Adult Self Report and Adult Behavior Checklist, completed by the young adult and the mother, respectively. Alphas ranged from .84 to .92.
      • Substance-related disorders were assessed using the Diagnostic Interview Schedule. Indicators reflected the presence of any substance-related disorder and the number of substance-related disorders in the last 9 and 15 years.
      • Use of alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs were captured from the Monitoring the Future Scale, completed by the young adult. Measures represented occasions of alcohol use, marijuana use, other drug use, and polydrug use.
      • Substance use problems in the past six months were assessed by standardizing and averaging mother’s and young adult’s reports from the Adult Behavior Checklist and Adult Self Report, respectively.
      • Frequency of binge drinking in the past year was measured using an adaptation of an item from the Quantity and Frequency of Alcohol and Drugs Scale.
      • Age of onset of regular drinking was taken from the Diagnostic Interview Schedule.

      Analysis.: Based on an intent-to-treat approach, the main study (Wolchik et al. 2000) used regression analysis to predict time 2 outcomes from time 1 outcomes plus two dummy variables for the treatment conditions. With the mother-only condition serving as the reference group, one dummy variable measured the literature control condition and a second dummy variable measured the dual-component condition.

      In addition, the regression analysis allowed for the interaction of the baseline outcomes with the condition dummy variables. A significant interaction would be expected to show that the intervention had stronger effects for those at high risk (i.e., having worse scores on the outcome at baseline). With the variables centered, the dummy variables alone show the effect of the conditions at the mean of the time 1 predictors. The interactions then show how much the effect of the condition changes at higher levels of the baseline outcomes.

      For significant effects, the analysis presented Cohen d coefficients for effect size, either for the average across all subjects or for high-risk subjects.

      Tein et al. (2004) examined outcomes for internalizing and externalizing outcomes with baseline controls in structural equations models of mediation.

      6-Year Follow-Up. The main 6-year follow-up (Wolchik et al., 2002) used the same analytic framework but, where appropriate, replaced linear regression with logistic regression and ordinal regression. Except for internalizing and externalizing problems, baseline measures were not available for many outcomes examined in the 6-year follow-up. Wolchik et al. (2002) used a measure combining externalizing and internalizing problems to serve as a proxy for baseline risk.

      Four other 6-year follow-up studies used the measure of baseline risk that combined baseline externalizing problems and environmental stressors. The index was intended to summarize overall risk, predict multiple outcomes, and replace the use of specific baseline outcomes in the models.

      • Dawson-McClure et al. (2004) used the baseline risk index in regression analysis of moderation.
      • Zhou et al. (2008) used the baseline risk index in structural equation mediation models.
      • Soper et al. (2010) used the baseline risk index in full information maximum likelihood estimation of structural equation mediation models (with missing data included).
      • McClain et al. (2010) used the baseline risk index in its structural equation mediation models with all four time points.

      Intent to Treat. The study complied with the intent-to-treat principle. Non-completers were included in the analysis when there was follow-up data.

      15-Year Follow-Up. (Wolchik et al., 2013).. The 15-year follow-up used logistic regression, analysis of covariance, and Cox proportional hazards models. It appears that the study did not need to adjust for the groups that intervention participants received the program in, as intra-class correlations indicated little clustering (mean=.02). The analyses combined the dual component and mother programs and compared this group to the control. To adjust for multiple tests, a false discovery rate was applied to effects. The changing nature of the outcomes at the long-term follow-up meant that baseline outcomes could not be controlled directly. Analyses controlled for baseline risk created in an earlier article (Dawson-McClure et al., 2004), baseline internalizing problems, and baseline self-esteem.

      All 240 families were included in analyses, as the article used full information maximum likelihood and multiple imputation to account for missing data (ranging from 0% to 23%). However, measures using Diagnostic Interview Schedule disorders and the measure of onset of regular drinking were exceptions. Participants who exhibited these measures prior to the period analyzed were excluded.

      Outcomes

      Implementation Fidelity.: Several steps were taken to ensure fidelity. Sessions were delivered using manuals that detailed the content and format of the program. Program leaders also went through extensive training (30 hours prior to the start of the program and 1.5 hours/week during program delivery). Program leaders were also tested on their knowledge of the program, and had to score above 89% on quizzes regarding program content. Additionally, measures on attendance, homework completion and participation in the literature control condition were also reported. Mothers attended an average of 77% of the group sessions, and children attended an average of 78%. The proportion of homework completed was .54 for the mother-only condition and .55 for the dual-component condition. Those who participated in the literature control condition reported reading about half of each of the books.

      Baseline Equivalence and Differential Attrition.: Of the 240 families included in the baseline sample, pretest equivalence of the randomized conditions was assessed and only one significant difference was noted: interparental conflict was lower in the literature control condition than in the dual-component condition.

      For the posttest and 6-month follow-up, attrition was not a problem. All participants assigned to the conditions completed the posttest, and 98% (234 out of 240) completed the 6-month follow-up.

      For 218 families with data for the 6-year follow-up (91% of the original 240 families), there were no significant baseline differences on demographic variables or baseline levels of externalizing or internalizing problems (Wolchik et al., 2002). Further, there were no significant group-by-attrition effects on externalizing or internalizing problems.

      Of the 240 families assigned to condition, 89.6% provided some information at the 15-year follow-up. Rates of attrition did not differ significantly across intervention and control participants (Wolchik et al., 2013). Completers and dropouts differed on baseline self-esteem and internalization, but the analysis controlled for the two measures.

      Posttest and 6-Month Follow-Up (Wolchik et al., 2000).

      Outcomes are reported as average differences for the literature control condition from the mother-only condition, as well as for the dual-component vs. mother-only condition.

      Significant coefficients for group-by-baseline outcome interaction terms generally mean the effects of the intervention may have special benefits for those at higher risk (i.e., those with worse baseline values on the outcomes).

      Psychological Adjustment Problems (Post-test).. When compared to the literature control condition, the mother-only intervention resulted in significant improvements in internalizing behaviors and externalizing behaviors, but did not improve teacher reports of acting-out problems. In one instance, problems worsened from the intervention: Teacher reports of shy-anxious behaviors significantly increased in the mother-only condition, when compared to the control condition.

      Additionally, the program sometimes had greater benefits for high-risk children. When compared to the control condition, high-risk children in the mother-only condition reported significant improvements in externalizing behaviors. There were few differences between the dual-component and the mother-only condition, either on average or at higher risk.

      Psychological Adjustment Problems (6-Month Follow-up).. Results of the 6-month follow-up were not as consistent as results at posttest. There were significant improvements in externalizing problems in the mother-only condition when compared to the literature control condition, but there were no significant improvements in internalizing, teacher reports of shy-anxious behaviors or acting out.

      Children at higher risk benefited from significant improvements in externalizing problems (mother-child report) in both interventions and teacher reports of acting out behavior in the mother-only intervention, when compared to the control condition.

      Putative Mediators (Post-test).. Four of the 16 tests of the putative mediators (mother-child relationship quality and effective discipline strategies, as well as the behavioral observation measures validation of content and attending) showed significant improvement in the mother-only condition when compared to the control condition. There were also significant improvements in 4 of 16 putative mediators in the dual-component intervention, when compared to the mother-only condition (active, supportive and avoidant coping strategies, as well as attending).

      For some outcomes, the intervention had more benefits for higher-risk children. High-risk children in the mother-only condition showed significant improvements (when compared to the control condition) in mother-child relationship quality, mother’s attitude toward the noncustodial father, parental conflict and supportive coping strategies. In the dual component intervention, families who had high risk demonstrated significant improvements in mother’s attitude toward the noncustodial father, threat appraisal and distractive coping mechanisms, when compared to the mother-only condition.

      Putative Mediators (6-Month Follow-Up).. Again, results of the 6-month follow-up were not as consistent as for the posttest. There was only one significant improvement (observed attending) in the 11 putative mediators that were assessed at the 6-month follow-up in the mother-only condition when compared to the control condition. The dual component intervention showed one significant result: Children in the dual component intervention demonstrated significant improvements in active coping strategies, when compared to the mother-only condition.

      Children at higher risk did not show any significant improvements in the mother-only condition when compared to the dual-component intervention. However, high-risk children in the dual-component intervention showed significant improvements in mother-child relationship quality, father-child contact and the behavioral observation measure of conversational latitude, when compared to the mother-only condition.

      Mediation Analysis. Tein et al. (2004) expanded on the analysis of Wolchik et al. (2000) by performing a formal analysis of mediation and moderation. Using structural equation modeling, the mediation analysis found that improvement in posttest parental methods of discipline and mother-child relationship quality mediated program effects on posttest and 6-month follow-up measures of externalizing problems. The mediation effect primarily helped children who began the program with poorer scores on discipline, mother-child relationship quality, and externalizing problems.

      6-Year Follow-Up (Wolchik et al., 2002).

      Results for diagnostic measures showed that the dual-component program significantly reduced the diagnosis of any mental health or drug-abuse disorder. The adjusted odds ratios of any disorder were 2.83 times higher for the control group than the dual-component intervention group. Results also showed that the dual-component program significantly reduced the diagnosis of any mental health disorder (odds ratio of 4.50). However, the program did not significantly reduce the diagnosis of a drug-abuse disorder alone. Further, the mother-only program did not significantly influence any of the diagnostic outcomes.

      For the six count outcomes, two of the comparisons of the dual-component program with the control group showed significant main effects (externalizing problems, sexual partners). None of the main effect comparisons of the mother-only program with the control group proved significant. For example, the number of sexual partners was .68 for the dual-component program, 1.09 for the mother program, and 1.65 for the control group. Several outcomes showed particular program benefits for subjects at high risk at baseline. For the dual-component program and for the mother-only program, the program-by-baseline outcome interaction reached significance for externalizing problems and mental disorder symptom count. Also, comparison of the mother-only and control conditions indicated significant group X baseline interaction effects for alcohol, marijuana, and other drug use. For each interaction, the program benefit was strongest for those with higher baseline problems.

      Although the dual-component program appeared to do better in comparisons to the control group than the mother-only program, direct comparisons of the dual-component program with the mother program failed to produce any significant differences.

      6-Year Follow-Up Moderation Analysis (Dawson-McClure et al., 2004).

      This study adopted a different methodological approach but generally affirmed the results of Wolchik et al. (2002). The key methodological difference was the development of a combined measure of risk to be used as a predictor of diverse outcomes. Rather than using a different baseline measure for each outcome, the models used the same baseline predictor, namely, a scale combining environmental stressors and externalizing problems.

      On average, the dual-component program significantly reduced three of five outcomes, while the mother-only program reduced none of the five outcomes. More relevant, the baseline risk scale significantly moderated the program effect in 8 of 10 tests. In all cases, the program did more to reduce problems of those at high risk. For example, the mother-only program did slightly worse than the control group on percent diagnosed with a mental health disorder among those at low risk (13.9% versus 9.5%) but did much better among those at high risk (25.0% versus 46.1%).

      6-Year Follow-Up Mediation Analyses (Zhou et al., 2008; Soper et al., 2010; McClain et al., 2010).

      Three studies performed mediation analyses on the same data set.

      The first study (Zhou et al., 2008) demonstrated that maternal discipline at posttest (but not mother-child relationship quality) mediated the program effect on GPA at the 6-year follow-up. Neither maternal discipline nor mother-child relationship quality mediated the program effect on the number of sexual partners. Relationship quality mediated the program effect on externalizing problems but only for the high-risk group of subjects.

      The second study (Soper et al., 2010) examined both mediators and outcomes at the same time point, the 6-year follow-up. The mediators, which differ from those used in the other mediation studies, included parental monitoring, negative errors, and adaptive coping. The outcomes included alcohol/marijuana use, polydrug use, other drug use, and number of sexual partners. The program increased parental monitoring and parental monitoring decreased alcohol and marijuana use, polydrug use, and other drug use but only for youth with high risk of developing adjustment problems.

      The third study (McClain et al., 2010) was the most detailed. This study laid out a full path model: The program improved the mother-child relationship and discipline at posttest, which improve internalizing and externalizing at the 3-month and 6-month follow-ups, which in turn lead to better outcomes relating to academics, self-esteem, internalizing problems, externalizing problems, drug use, and risky sexual behavior at the 6-year follow-up.

      The two versions of the program – dual component and mother only – were combined for this analysis. Program correlations with the 6-year follow-up measures were significant for only one of the six outcomes at the last follow-up – risky sexual behavior (r = -.16).

      The indirect effects are small but in a few cases significant. The effect of the program via the quality of the mother-child relationship and internalizing reached significance at the 6-year follow-up for two of six outcomes: internalizing (CI = -.01 to -.15) and self-esteem (CI = .01 to .20). The effect of the program via discipline and externalizing reached significance at the 6-year follow-up for three of six outcomes: externalizing (CI = -.03 to -.41), substance use (CI = -.01 to -.17), and academic performance (CI = .01 to .04).

      15-Year Follow-Up (Wolchik et al., 2013).

      For both the 15-year study period and the 9-year period since the previous follow-up, the combined intervention group (mother and dual component programs) showed a significantly lower percentage of young adults that had developed an internalizing disorder compared to the control group. Hazard analyses showing a reduced rate of symptom onset further demonstrated the program effect on internalizing disorders. Comparing percentages of adults with specific disorders indicated that the program effect on internalizing disorders was primarily due to a reduction in major depression. Developing an internalizing or externalizing disorder showed marginal significance with the adjustment for multiple tests for both durations. Externalizing disorders, recent externalizing and internalizing problems, and nine substance use outcomes showed no significant program effects.

      Moderation analyses looking at program effects across females and males did not show any significant interactions at the .05 level with the adjustment for multiple tests. Marginally significant effects indicated that the program was strengthened for males on polydrug use, other drug use, substance use problems, and substance use disorders. Females showed marginally significant increased drinking for those in the program, though the study noted that this outcome might not have clinical significance.

      Limitations

      • Results of the 6-month follow-up were weak and inconsistent – only 8 of 60 tests reached statistical significance.
      • The sample was not racially or ethnically diverse, with 88% of the sample being Caucasian, and inclusion criteria for participation limits the generalizability of the sample.
      • Recruitment of 240 mother-child pairs from 671 eligible mother-child pairs represents a low participation rate, and analysis of non-participants revealed selection bias favoring inclusion of subjects with more education, higher income, and fewer children.
      • With dozens of mediating, moderating, and outcome variables used across the same subjects, there is the potential to emphasize only the subset of results that produced positive findings.
      • Many follow-up outcomes were not measured at baseline, requiring use of proxy baseline control measures.
      • Most results were stronger for those at high risk at program entry.
      • Compared to the control group, the benefits of the mother-only program occurred only for those who entered the program at high risk of developing problems.
      • An iatrogenic effect emerged at posttest with both programs worsening shy-anxious behaviors based on teacher reports.
      • Externalizing behavior improved in the early waves but not the 6-year (mother program) or 15-year follow-up (combined intervention group), while internalizing behavior improved at the 15-year follow-up (combined intervention group) but not in the 6-month or 6-year follow-up.

      Wolchik, S., West, S., Westover, S., Sandler, I., Martin, A., Lustig, J., ... Fisher, J. (1993). The children of divorce parenting intervention: Outcome evaluation of an empirically based program. American Journal of Community Psychology, 21. (3), 293-331.

      This initial randomized control trial used much the same design as subsequent studies to evaluate the program. However, the study employed a smaller sample and used the mother-only but not the dual-component intervention. Also, the age range of the child was wider (8-15 years) compared to subsequent evaluations (9-12 years).

      Design:. . The sample came from a narrowly defined population. Lists of potential participants were gathered from court records of filings for divorce and responses to media articles or school presentations. As in Wolchik et al. (2000), investigators prescreened the potential participants in a telephone interview to ensure they met seven criteria: a) the divorce decree was granted during the last two years, b) there was at least one child between 8 and 15 years of age, c) the custodial or primary residential parent was female, d) neither the custodial parent nor child was currently in treatment for psychological problems, e) the custodial parent had not remarried and had no plans to remarry during the study period, f) the custodial arrangement was expected to remain stable during the study period; and g) English was the primary language of the mother and children. Without listing the number of families screened, the study identified 177 families to proceed to the next step.

      A second stage of screening eliminated children who did not appear to be at risk and mothers or children with clinical levels of depression. Of the 177 families examined, 94 were selected for randomization. The sample consisted of seven separate cohorts, each of which had 6-8 families who participated in a single group. Treatment mothers attended 10 weekly group sessions and two individual sessions. The control group waited six months to begin the program.

      Assessments were done before the intervention and at 6 months, immediately after the intervention.

      Of the 94 families selected for randomization, 70 completed pretest and posttest interviews. About 40% of the attrition occurred prior to the first session. The attrition rate was 22% for the control group and 29% for the intervention group.

      Sample:. . Ninety percent of the mothers were Caucasian. The mean age of the mothers was 36.8 years, and 74% had attended college. The average yearly income was $20,001 to $25,000. The parents had been divorced an average of 11.0 months and physically separated an average of 23.1 months. The mother had sole custody in 74% of the families. The average age of the child was 10.6 years, and 61% of the children were male.

      Measures. .

      The 25 measures, obtained by interviewers blind to the condition, were based on self-reports of children and mothers. The measures can be divided into four groups:

      1. Eight scales of modifiable risk and protective factors (or mediators) from children’s reports. These relate to communication with parents, discipline, time with parents, and perceived parental conflict.

      2. Eleven scales of modifiable risk and protective factors (or mediators) from mother’s reports. These relate to family communication, relationship quality, discipline, time with children, parental conflict, and attitude toward child’s relationship with father.

      3. Four scales of psychological adjustment from children’s reports, including scales of depression, manifest anxiety, aggression, and conduct problems.

      4. One scale of children’s psychological adjustment from mother’ reports that focused on total problem behaviors.

      The scales have strong reliability. Other measures cover basic demographic information.

      Analysis. A series of ANCOVAs used pretest scores as covariates and group membership as the key predictor of the outcomes. The models tested for interaction of the pretest scores with group membership. For significant interactions, calculations determined whether the program most benefited those with low or high pretest scores.

      Outcomes.

      Implementation Fidelity. Group leaders received training and ongoing supervision. A process evaluation measured time spent on each component of the program, attendance of participants, self ratings by leaders of their knowledge and mastery of the program material, ratings of leaders by participants, and participants reports on use of the skills taught in the program. According to the results of the process evaluation, participants attended 9.6 of the 10 scheduled group sessions. The leaders closely followed the session outlines, nearly all leaders (more than 90%) rated their knowledge of materials as high, and participants gave leaders positive ratings (4.75 on a 5-point scale). Participants further reported favorable changes in usage of 22 skills taught in the program (a rated mean of 2.76 on a 3-point scale).

      Baseline Equivalence. The study did not examine baseline equivalence.

      Attrition. The rate of attrition did not differ significantly across the intervention and control groups (p = .68). Tests of interaction for condition-by-attrition status were done for the pretest variables. No differences existed for mothers’ reports, while 2 of 12 baseline measures from children’s reports – aggression and depression – were significant. The results indicated that completers in the control group tended to be less aggressive and less depressed than completers in the intervention group. The authors summarize: “Given that the control group completers tended to be healthier, any effects of attrition would be expected to be biased against showing positive effects of the treatment.”

      Otherwise, attrition occurred similarly across the intervention and control groups. Mothers with higher levels of interparental conflict were more likely to drop out, and children with higher levels of contact with nonparental adults were more likely to drop out. However, the similarity in attrition across conditions limits the potential for bias.

      Posttest. . The study organized the results by the four groups of outcome measures. In general, the program had stronger effects on measures obtained from mothers than from children.

      Mediators from Child Reports. Of the eight outcome measures, the program significantly improved one (acceptance-rejection), but only for those with worse pretest scores. Six others showed no significant differences at the .05 level, and one other (support from non-parental adult) improved more for the control group. Rather than a true iatrogenic effect, this latter finding may have resulted simply from increased contact time with the mother.

      Mediators from Parent Reports. Of the 11 outcomes, the program significantly improved four (communication, positive routines, control, and willingness to change visitation) across all pretest levels and significantly improved two others (consistency of discipline and negative divorce events) among those with worse pretest scores.

      Outcomes from Child Reports. Of the four outcomes measuring psychological adjustment, the program significantly improved one (aggression). For depression and anxiety, there were no statistically significant differences between the treatment and controls groups.

      Outcomes from Mother Reports. The one measure of psychological adjustment showed significantly greater improvement among the intervention group, but only among those with worse pretest scores.

      Mediation.. A full mediation analysis treated the mother’s report of the quality of the mother-child relationship (a combination of scores on acceptance/rejection, communication, and positive routines) as mediating the influence of the intervention on mother’s report of child problem behaviors. The indirect effect of the intervention on the outcome via the quality of relationship was significant (beta = .35 * -.22 = - .077, p < .01).

      Effect Sizes. None Reported

      Limitations.

      • No analysis of baseline equivalence.
      • The highly selective sample excluded those children who did not appear to be at risk.
      • The results did not consistently improve mediators or outcomes from the child reports, only from the mother’s reports
      • Two iatrogenic effects emerged, although the authors provided plausible explanations for the unexpected results.
      • No long-term follow-up.