PROTEGO - a selective intervention programme for the prevention of tobacco, alcohol and other drug use in the family

At a glance

Country of origin
Last reviewed 
Age group
6-10 years
11-14 years
Target group 
Family/parents with their children (9-13)/ (8-14)
Programme setting(s)
Level(s) of intervention
Selective prevention

PROTEGO is a selective intervention programme for the prevention of tobacco, alcohol and other drug use in the family. It is a based on the improvement of the educational skills of families through the application of a group intervention.  It consists of eight two-hour sessions for groups of 12 to 15 parents of children and adolescents aged 9 to 13 years. It focuses on developing and enhancing parenting skills, addressing risk factors and family protection through educational activities. It aims to strengthen the bonds between parents and children, and to define and clarify the family´s position on substance use.

Contact details 

Jaume Larriba
Technical Director
PDS – Promoción y Desarrollo Social, asociación
C/ Provenza, 79 bajos 3a - 08029 Barcelona (Spain)
Phone ++(34) 934 307 170 – ++(34) 678 505 102 |
Fax ++(34)934 390 773
Email: jlarriba[a]

Name of organisation: 'P.D.S. – Promoció i Desenvoluapment Social (P.D.S. - Promoción y Desarrollo Social-)'
Street address: Provença street 79, ground flour 3.
Postal code: 08029
City: Barcelona
Country: Spain
E-mail: aduran[a]

Overview of results from the European studies

Last reviewed 
Evidence rating  
Additional studies recommended

Studies overview

The programme has been evaluated in one quasi-experimental study in Spain and one pre-post study with 12 months follow-up without control group. The quasi-experimental study was conducted among families (n=259) served by social services or specialised units in 12 territories, less than 12 months after the intervention (parents with problems of addiction were excluded). The study showed small but significant effects on communication skills, conflict management and cohesion, and family bonding among parents moderated by implementation and participation. There were no outcome measures related to substance use (only parents were evaluated). There was no difference in cohesion, family bonding and family communication.

The longitudinal study was conducted between 12 and 16 months after the pre-test, and 10 – 14 months after the post-test. The study showed statistically significant differences; it showed that all the measures were positive, except for behavioural monitoring, indicating that most outcomes were maintained. Family positioning on drugs increased over time.

References of studies

Countries where evaluated



Protective factor(s) addressed
Family: attachment to and support from parents
Family: parent involvement in learning/education
Individual and peers: Problem solving skills
Risk factor(s) addressed
Family: family management problems
Family: parental attitudes favourable to alcohol/drug use
Outcomes targeted
Positive relationships
Relations with parents
Other behaviour outcomes

Description of programme

PROTEGO is a relatively long and intensive prevention program applied to small groups of parents from families that show a cumulative presence of risk factors. The programme’s overall objective is to modify the exposure to family risk and protective factors for substance abuse among high risk children and adolescents. It does so by improving parenting skills (communication, limits, norms, monitoring), strengthening family ties and clarifying the family position in relation to drug use.

PROTEGO is based on the socio-ecological model of drug prevention that addresses personal and environmental factors. The programme targets at-risk families (parents) with adolescent children (9-13 year olds), that have a history of behaviour or school problems which did not require a therapeutic intervention. It consists of 8 two-hour weekly sessions, over the course of two and a half months, where trainers work directly with the parents in a neutral space. The sessions provide direct educational skills for the better development of family relationships. The creation of a group climate facilitates the sharing of problems faced by families and personal difficulties in their education. The programme modules consist of: 1. Definition of behaviour change objectives, 2. Communication skills, 3. Reduction of conflicts and improvement of family relations, 3. Setting standards and limits, 5. Supervision, sanctions and family ties, 6. Family position regarding the use of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs, 7. Troubleshooting, 8. Follow-up.

PROTEGO should be applied by two people: one who guides the training sessions and one who observes and supports the group sessions. The former should have training and experience in the field of psychology, as well as knowledge on drug prevention. The latter may have less experience, however, it is highly recommended that both are trained in the development of the programme.

The programme manual is given to families, as are the summary hand-outs at the end of each session. The manual includes: (i) information on the characteristics of the programme, (ii) guidelines for motivating and retaining families, and (iii) guidelines for its implementation, including session rationale, specific objectives, and detailed description of the procedure. The programme is available on the website of the PDS.

PROTEGO has been widely used since it was first developed and implemented by Promoció i Desenvolupament Social´ (PDS) in 2001; it has also been adapted for implementation in different social and cultural environments. There is a Romanian translation and adaptation of PROTEGO. A Latin American (Spanish and Portuguese) adaptation of the program was developed as a component of an URB-AL project and used in the municipalities involved in the project: Buenos Aires (Argentina), Medellin (Colombia), Montevideo (Uruguay) and Santo André (Brazil). A specific version for Bolivia was also developed.

Following the evaluation of PROTEGO, a new version was edited PROTEGO Version 2. Training on positive parenting and educational skills for mothers and fathers.

Implementation Experiences