The Family Check-Up

The Family Check-Up is a brief, strengths-based intervention effective for reducing children’s problem behaviors by improving parenting and family management practices. The Family Check-Up integrates assessment with motivation-enhancement strategies to tailor intervention goals to meet the unique needs of each family and increase family engagement. The Family Check-Up has more than 25 years of evidence demonstrating strong intervention effects.

The Family Check-Up provides parents with the tools that they need to manage their children’s behaviors effectively and to build a strong and positive relationship with their children. Any professional that provides services to families with children can use the Family Check-Up.

The FCU model has been used successfully in diverse service settings, including community mental health agencies, publicly funded health centers, public schools, hospitals, university clinics, and Native American tribal communities.

Family Check-Up Impact

More than 20 years of research shows that the Family Check-Up leads to positive child outcomes in early childhood and adolescence.  The Family Check-Up works by helping parents improve their parenting practices – such as positive behavior support, monitoring, and setting limits – and by enhancing the quality of all of their family relationships.  Research also shows that the Family Check-Up leads to reductions in depression among parents, which, in turn, promotes improvements in child wellbeing.

The Family Check-Up is recognized as a model program by several registries, including:

Impact in Childhood

Compared with children of families who never participated in a Family Check-Up, children of families that did participate have:

  • Fewer behavior and emotional problems at home and in school
  • Better emotion regulation
  • Increased school readiness: Improvements in early language development and higher academic achievement
  • Reductions in exposure to neglect
  • Decreased risk for obesity
  • Less conflictual and more open/warm relationships with parents 
  • More accepting and less rejecting relations with peers at school-age 
  • Less conflictual relationships with teachers at school-age 

Impact in Adolescence

Compared with adolescents of families who never participated in a Family Check-Up, adolescents of those families that did participate have:

  • Lower rates of drug use
  • Less antisocial behavior
  • Less bullying in school
  • Fewer symptoms of depression
  • High rates of school attendance
  • Better grades

Long-term Impact into Early Adulthood

Adolescents of families that participated in the Family Check-Up were followed into early adulthood.  The Family Check-Up has long-lasting effects that include reductions in problem behavior, and substance use and dependence.  Again, compared with families who did not participate in a Family Check-Up,  adolescents of families who did participate had significant reductions in substance use:

  • 30% less marijuana use
  • 54% less tobacco use
  • 25% less alcohol use
  • And were 38% less likely to be arrested in early adulthood

Impact for Parents

Compared with parents who did not participate in a Family Check-Up, parents who did reported improvements in their wellbeing and parenting practices, including:

  • Improved wellbeing and reductions in depressive symptoms
  • Increased social support
  • Improved parenting, specifically: increased use of positive behavior support and proactive parenting strategies
  • Less parental neglect of children
  • Improved relationship with children
  • Improved co-parent relationship, including lower levels of conflict
  • Increased use of existing community resources


Use of the Family Check-Up in the United States and Internationally 

In 2019, The FCU Executive Governing Board was formed with the goal of organizing research and training requests from scientists, providers, and communities. The board includes representatives from both research and practice as well as international scientists. The board manages training and research requests, updates to training materials, and research collaborations involving the FCU. The board strives to improve communication among those using the FCU model and enhance collaborations by connecting scientists and practitioners with similar goals. 

For more information about training and research with the Family Check-Up, please visit our colleagues at the University of Oregon: 

 Dr. Thomas Dishion developed the Family Check-Up while at the University of Oregon where training and research related to the model is organized.   

The Center for Parents and Children works in collaboration with the University of Oregon to facilitate the implementation of the Family Check-Up in the Pittsburgh and eastern regions of the United States. 


The Family Check-Up: Selected Publications 

The following papers describe in greater detail the findings presented above. 

Shaw, D. S., Galán, C., Lemery-Chalfant, K., Dishion, T. J., Elam, K. K., Wilson, M. N., & Gardner , F. (2019).  Early predictors of children’s early-starting conduct problems: Child, family, genetic, and intervention effects. Development and Psychopathology, 31, 1911-1921. 

Brennan, L. M., Shelleby, E., Shaw, D. S., Dishion, T. J., Gardner, F., & Wilson, M. N. (2013). Indirect effects of the Family Check-Up on school-age academic achievement through improvements in parenting in early childhood. Journal of Educational Psychology, 105, 762-773. 

Dishion, T. J., Shaw, D., Connell, A., Gardner, F., Weaver, C., & Wilson, M. (2008). The Family Check‐Up with high‐risk indigent families: Preventing problem behavior by increasing parents’ positive behavior support in early childhood. Child Development, 79(5), 1395-1414. 

Dishion, T. J., Brennan, L. M., Shaw, D. S., McEachern, A. D., Wilson, M. N., & Jo, B. (2014). Prevention of problem behavior through annual family check-ups in early childhood: intervention effects from home to early elementary school. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 42(3), 343-354. 

Lunkenheimer, E. S., Dishion, T. J., Shaw, D. S., Connell, A. M., Gardner, F., Wilson, M. N., & Skuban, E. M. (2008). Collateral benefits of the Family Check-Up on early childhood school readiness: Indirect effects of parents’ positive behavior support. Developmental Psychology, 44(6), 1737. 

McEachern, A. D., Fosco, G. M., Dishion, T. J., Shaw, D. S., Wilson, M. N., & Gardner, F. (2013). Collateral benefits of the Family Check-Up in early childhood on caregiver’s social support and relationship satisfaction. Journal of Family Psychology. 

Shaw, D. S., Connell, A., Dishion, T. J., Wilson, M. N., & Gardner, F. (2009). Improvements in maternal depression as a mediator of intervention effects on early childhood problem behavior. Development and Psychopathology, 21(02), 417-439. 

Shaw, D. S., Dishion, T. J., Supplee, L., Gardner, F., & Arnds, K. (2006). Randomized trial of a family-centered approach to prevention of early conduct problems: 2-year effects of the Family Check-Up in early childhood. Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology, 74(1), 19.  


Intervention Effects in Adolescence 

Dishion, T., Granic, I. and Bullock, B. (2002). Pragmatism in modeling peer influence: Dynamics, outcomes and change processes. Development and Psychopathology, 14(4), 969-981. 

Dishion,T.J.;  Nelson, N.E.;  Kavanagh, K. (2003). The Family Check-Up with high-risk young adolescents: Preventing early-onset substance use by parent monitoring. Behavior Therapy 34, 553-571. 

Connell, A. M., & Dishion, T. J. (2008). Reducing depression among at-risk early adolescents: Three-year effects of a family-centered intervention embedded within schools. Journal of Family Psychology, 22, 574-585. 

Connell, A., M., Dishion, T. J., & Klostermann, S. (2011). Family Check-Up effects on adolescent arrest trajectories: Variation by developmental subtype. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 22(2), 367-380. 

Stormshak, E. A., Connell, A. M., Véronneau, M. H., Myers, M. W., Dishion, T. J., Kavanagh, K., & Caruthers, A. S. (2011). An ecological approach to interventions with high-risk students in schools: Using the Family Check-Up to motivate parents’ positive behavior support. Child Development, 82, 209-255. 

Stormshak, E. A., Fosco, G. M., & Dishion, T. J. (2010). Implementing interventions with families in schools to increase youth school engagement: The Family Check-Up model. School Mental Health, 2(2), 82-92. 

Van Ryzin, M. J., Stormshak, E. A., & Dishion, T. J. (2012). Engaging parents in the Family Check-Up in middle school: Longitudinal effects on family conflict and problem behavior through the transition to high school. Journal of Adolescent Health, 50(6), 627-633. 

Veronneau, Dishion, & Connell (in press). Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.  10 year ITT effects on marijuana use. 

Family Check-Up is a federally registered trademark owned by the University of Oregon