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Program Matrix Classification

The program matrix lists the Family Strengthening Programs by age and the classification scheme of universal, selected and indicated. The matrix is designed to provide the user with a quick way to identify programs that may best suit the needs of the families they serve. It is simply a place to start. It is not intended to be the final source for program selection since many of the programs actually cross categories in both age and population. It is recommended that you read through program descriptions carefully to understand the full scope of the interventions and the goals and objectives and their services.

Matrix Classification Scheme

In 1994, the Institute of Medicine introduced a new classification to prevention interventions based on a risk-benefit point of view. This system (Gordon, 1987)1 consists of three categories: universal, selected, and indicated prevention. These classifications are used to group OJJDP's Strengthening America's Families Programs for ease of primary program identification. Please note that many of the programs are applicable and appropriate for populations in more than one classification. The general definition of these categories and examples of programs in each category are provided below:

Universal Prevention Interventions

Universal interventions for families are designed for a general population of families and youth. Family interventions at this level are generally shorter in length and often less intensive than programs in the other categories. Examples are programs that target a general community of parents/families without specific, identifiable needs. Programs include Raising a Thinking Child: I Can Problem Solve, Preparing for the Drug-Free Years, and the NICASA Parent Project.

Selected Prevention Interventions

Selected interventions are targeted at high-risk individuals or families as members of at-risk subgroups. Family interventions at this level are generally longer in length. These more extensive programs often involve parents, extended family and youth to target behavioral changes. These programs are designed to reduce family risk factors such as family disorganization, excessive family conflict or poor supervision of the child or poor discipline skills. These selected interventions are often implemented in communities with factors generally correlated with high levels of family stress and disruption such as poverty, high mobility and high unemployment. Examples of selected family prevention interventions are the Prenatal and Early Childhood Nurse Home Visitation Program, Strengthening Families Program, Adolescent Transition Program and Effective Black Parenting Program.

Indicated Prevention Interventions

Indicated prevention programs are designed to address the multiple risk factors in individual families. Identified or diagnosed problems could include school failure, delinquency, non-compliance, drug use in the child or indicators of parenting dysfunction such as child physical or sexual abuse, severe neglect, or other parental pathology. Indicated prevention programs are even more extensive, longer and can involve in-home therapeutic or family support sessions. Many of these programs are categorized as both prevention and treatment because they are effective in preventing the developmental progression from one disorder to another. Examples of these programs include Helping the Noncompliant Child, Focus on Families and Functional Family Therapy.






          1. Gordon, R. (1987). An operational classification of disease prevention. In: J. A. Steinberg & M. M. Silverman, (Eds). Preventing mental disorders (pp. 20-26). Rockville, MD: Department of Health and Human Services.
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