Protecting Youth From Interpersonal Violence via Implementation of the Strengthening Families Programme 10-14 Panama

Project: Research council

Project Details


In Central America, interpersonal violence can significantly reduce adolescents' opportunities for becoming happy and healthy adults. It is estimated that an adolescent is involved in 82% of all homicides in Central America. Interpersonal violence not only puts their lives at risk; it affects their health and their academic performance. Research suggests that healthy family functioning is one of the most important factors that can protect adolescents from violence. For this reason, for over 5 years the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has invested in implementing the Strengthening Families Programme for adolescents 10 to 14 years old (SFP 10-14) in several countries across Central America as a prevention strategy.

SFP 10-14 is delivered in seven group sessions in which both the adolescent (10 to 14 years old) and their parents take part in workshops and activities to build family strengths such as communication and assertive discipline. Research suggests that building these skills, before problems occur, protects adolescents from engaging in risky behaviour, and thus from difficulties later in life. The hub of UNODC's efforts in the last 5 years has been Panama, with close working relationships established between NGO's, education, health and policy. Moreover, members of our research team have conducted a series of preliminary studies in Panama. These include qualitative evaluations of parent's experience after participating in SPF 10-14 in Panama, which are now published.

In this project we aim to build on previous efforts and test implementation of SFP 10-14 widely across high-risk townships in Panama. We have chosen Panama as our laboratory given its strong governmental support, its role as the existing hub for SPF 10-14 in Central America, and the presence of a local investigator with expertise in the topic. Panama's growing rates of interpersonal violence make this issue a pressing local policy priority, with 1 in 3 deaths of those between 10-14 years old due to interpersonal violence.

We will test whether SPF 10-14 leads to a reduction in indicators of risk for families that take part, compared to those who simply receive usual care provided in their communities. We will also look at how the programme is implemented in order to identify the best ways to establish and maintain sustainability. Finally, we will measure the economics of implementation.

The project represents a strong partnership between academic institutions in the United Kingdom, a research centre in Panama, UNODC, and the Panamanian Ministries of Health and Education, and builds upon existing working and research relationships. Findings will have the potential to impact policies beyond Panama given that UNODC has strong and well-established links in this region.
Effective start/end date1/04/171/01/20


  • Medical Research Council


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