Diffusion of intervention effects: The impact of a family-based substance use prevention program on friends of participants

Kelly L. Rulison, Mark Feinberg, Scott D. Gest, D. Wayne Osgood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Purpose We tested whether effects of the Strengthening Families Program for Youth 10-14 (SFP10-14) diffused from intervention participants to their friends. We also tested which program effects on participants accounted for diffusion. Methods Data are from 5,449 students (51% female; mean initial age = 12.3 years) in the PROmoting School-community-university Partnerships to Enhance Resilience community intervention trial (2001-2006) who did not participate in SFP10-14 (i.e., nonparticipants). At each of five waves, students identified up to seven friends and self-reported past month drunkenness and cigarette use, substance use attitudes, parenting practices, and unsupervised time spent with friends. We computed two measures of indirect exposure to SFP10-14: total number of SFP-attending friends at each wave and cumulative proportion of SFP-attending friends averaged across the current and all previous post-intervention waves. Results Three years post-intervention, the odds of getting drunk (odds ratio = 1.4) and using cigarettes (odds ratio = 2.7) were higher among nonparticipants with zero SFP-attending friends compared with nonparticipants with three or more SFP-attending friends. Multilevel analyses also provided evidence of diffusion: nonparticipants with a higher cumulative proportion of SFP-attending friends at a given wave were less likely than their peers to use drugs at that wave. Effects from SFP10-14 primarily diffused through friendship networks by reducing the amount of unstructured socializing (unsupervised time that nonparticipants spent with friends), changing friends' substance use attitudes, and then changing nonparticipants' own substance use attitudes. Conclusions Program developers should consider and test how interventions may facilitate diffusion to extend program reach and promote program sustainability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)433-440
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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