The Teaching-Family Model




The following description appeared in the book, Behavioral Disorders of Children and Adolescents:


    “The Teaching Family Model (T-F Model) of intervention is a community-based group home pioneered by behavioral psychologists associated with the University of Kansas.  The typical T-F home involves about six to ten youths (delinquents or “pre-delinquents”) who reside with a specially trained wife-husband team called Teaching-Parents.  The variety of academic, vocational, social, self-management, and other adaptive skills; and teach the youths to recognize the consequences of their behaviors.  Begun in the middle 1960’s, the T-F model has evolved gradually through careful scientific evaluation.  Some treatment features have been added, others modified, and still others discarded.  Teaching-Parents are certified after an intensive training program which lasts about 1 year.  Follow-up evaluation is provided for all Teaching-Parents as they begin to serve in their own T-F home.”


    “There are six major components of the T-F model.  First, numerous skills of many types needed for successful adjustment in the community have been identified.  Upon entry, each young person’s standing on these skills is assessed to find those that need attention.  Second, these identified skill needs are trained through highly structured behavior-modification teaching techniques.  Third, participation and improvement are motivated through a “multilevel” token economy.  This is a most structured level for entering youths, in which the privileges of a comfortable life (e.g. opportunity to watch TV) must be earned on a daily or weekly basis by completing home and school learning assignments and by avoiding infractions that lose points.  As a youth shows that capability to perform well in more structured levels of the token economy, he or she is advanced to less structured levels and eventually to no token system at all.  A forth component is self-government, in which time is set aside for youths to voice concerns that effect their relations with others and their progress towards release.  In self-government sessions, the youth assist in the development of family rules, arbitrate rule violations, solve peer conflicts; and otherwise jointly take responsibility for the operations of the T-F home.”


    “The last two components focus on the generalization of behavior improvement to school and the youth’s real home.  Teaching-Parents maintain close contacts with the local school in which the youth is enrolled.  In fact, school-related behavior accounts for the majority of opportunities for the youth to earn points.  Teaching-Parents also work with school staff in defining and assessing academic or conduct problems; and in maintaining a school-to-home feedback system.  Finally, the youth’s natural family is given substantial training and follow-up consultation to help them maintain behavior improvements brought about in the T-F home.”


    “Probably the most thoroughly investigated treatment program for delinquent youths, the Model has stood up impressively – especially in comparison to the dismal record of most interventions for these adolescents.  There have been well over 100 research papers on the model, including one demonstrating the effectiveness of T-F procedures for improving self-help behaviors, social skills, peer relations, and academic performance. Overall evaluations of this program, such as comparisons of post-release adjustment of T-F youths versus similar youths paroled or placed elsewhere, support this program’s results.  Another measure of success is the popularity of the T-F Model.  On any given day, over 5,000 children, families and adults with special needs in the US and Canada, participate in group home treatment and other services based on the Teaching-Family treatment program."