What does this project involve?
The Thurston Family Resilience Project aims to build youth and family resilience to prevent anti-social behaviour. Delivered by South Tyneside Council and Wellbeing Challenge, the programme targeted 10 to 14-year-olds who were at risk of involvement in crime. Families were provided with resilience skill development sessions, two residential trips (where they engaged in outdoor activities) and participated in a social action project. The intervention lasted for a combined 10-12 months.
Why did YEF fund this project?
We know that what happens within a family can have a significant impact on whether a child engages in anti-social behaviour or offending. This is why family-focused interventions, such as multi-systemic therapy, have been developed to address the ‘whole world’ of a child, including their homes and families, and why parenting programmes are offered in an attempt to improve parent/carer and child relationships.
We also know that outdoor and adventure activities can have a positive impact on reducing serious youth violence (although the average impact is low, and the associated evidence is weak). The Thurston Family Resilience Project was designed to develop resilience via a family-focused intervention, with outdoor adventure activities as a key component.
We decided to evaluate the Thurston Family Resilience Project to better understand family-focused and outdoor activity-based interventions. To do this, we funded a feasibility and pilot study of the programme .
The feasibility evaluation aimed to ascertain whether the programme recruited a sufficient number of at-risk children and identify the most appropriate measures for assessing the project’s outcomes.
The pilot then explored whether the intervention influenced families’ self-esteem, confidence, strategies for emotional regulation, routines, and relationships. To analyse these questions, the evaluation used pre-and post-project questionnaires that featured a range of validated measures (such as the Child and Youth Resilience Measure, the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, the Problem Behaviour Frequency Scale, and the Rosenberg Self-esteem Scale).
In addition, the evaluator conducted five parent and carer focus groups, a focus group and three interviews with young people, observations of the residentials, and three reflective workshops with the delivery team. Monitoring data (including attendance sheets) was also collected. 48 families (including 42 parents and carers and 60 young people and siblings) were recruited to the programme as part of the pilot.
The evaluation was carried out between September 2019 and June 2022. Both delivery and evaluation therefore took place during the COVID-19 pandemic, requiring both the evaluators and delivery team to adapt.
|The Thurston Family Resilience Project successfully targeted at-risk young people. A large majority of those selected were deemed to be at either ‘medium’ (57%) or ‘high’ (22%) risk of involvement in anti-social behaviour. The measures used by the evaluator were judged to be effective in measuring programme outcomes.|
|Qualitative evidence suggested that the programme positively influenced young people’s and parents’ and carers’ self-esteem and confidence, in addition to supporting the development of social skills and improving families’ ability to discuss emotions. Pre- and post-questionnaire findings showed more mixed results relating to self-esteem, but these findings had considerable limitations.|
|Qualitative evidence suggested that the intervention may have begun to strengthen internal family relationships, providing the opportunity to engage in activities together, feel proud of each other and communicate more effectively. Pre- and post-questionnaire findings indicated negative shifts in internal family dynamics and a positive but minor shift in parental stress levels, but these findings had considerable limitations.|
|The evaluation noted that the programme, particularly the residentials, provided the opportunity to practise regular routines. Some parents noted that their children were developing independence. Delivery staff also suggested that some parents and carers may have used the programme as a catalyst to search for employment.|
|Qualitative evidence suggested that some young people may have developed better relationships with school. Pre- and post-questionnaires did suggest a negative shift in child–school relationships; however, as noted, these data had considerable limitations.|
What will YEF do next?
We will now conduct further evaluation of the project to ascertain whether it’s ready for an RCT.