Participation in the Fathering Through Change Intervention Reduces Substance Use Among Divorced and Separated Fathers

Sep 2020 | Camille C. Cioffi, David S. DeGarmo, & Jeremy A. Jones.


  • Divorce and separation are associated with increases in substance use for fathers.
  • Parenting programs can have secondary effects on reducing substance use. 
  • We tested whether the Fathering Through Change intervention would result in lower substance use.
  • The Fathering Through Change parent training program was associated with lower substance use.
  • It may be useful to integrate this program in drug and alcohol treatment centers.


Recent evaluations of parent training programs have demonstrated beneficial crossover effects in reducing parental substance use. Because divorce is associated with substance use risk and substance use interferes with effective parenting, parent training programs are critically important for divorced fathers but there are few evidence-based programs tailored to fathers. We tested whether an evidence -based parenting program would exhibit beneficial impact on fathers' substance use and whether these changes were mediated by changes in parenting efficacy. We tested hypotheses in a sample of 426 divorced and separated fathers randomly assigned to the online Fathering through Change (FTC) program or the wait-listed control condition. Models specified as 3-month pre-post analyses of self-reported substance use. The FTC was associated with reductions in total substance use (d=0.14) and drinking (d=0.26) but not with reductions in tobacco smoking and marijuana use. Data also supported a significant indirect effect for FTC through pre-post changes in parenting efficacy (d=0.36). We discuss clinical implications for the integration of parent training within substance use treatment. 

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