Our Research



The development of the Teaching-Family Model began in 1967 with the opening of Achievement Place, a group home for delinquent boys in Lawrence, Kansas. The research history of the Teaching-Family Model is intertwined with the evolution of the Bureau of Child Research and the Department of Human Development and Family Life (HDFL) at the University of Kansas. All three served as an incubator for the establishment of applied behavior analysis as a distinct arm of the science and practice of psychology. 

The Teaching-Family Model is unique among current evidence-based programs. The early research on the Model was applied research done in Teaching-Family group homes with Teaching Parents (married couples who live in a home with 5 or 6 youths) as the key treatment agents. Nearly all of the approximately 200 individual experimental studies conducted in Teaching-Family group homes employed ‘within subject’ experimental designs based on direct observation of youth behaviors. 

After operationalizing observed intervention methods, those practice-based solutions became the subject of the next study. In this way, the core components of the Teaching-Family Model were developed and evaluated. The development and refinement of the core intervention components are based on published research. 

The Boys Town Family Home Program® has the same origins as the Teaching-Family Model (Phillips, Phillips, Fixsen, & Wolf, 1974), with adaptations over the years resulting from ongoing evaluation, research, and continuous quality improvement (Thompson & Daly, 2015). Over 500 articles have been published on Boys Town programs, including more than 80 papers about Boys Town’s adaptations of the Teaching-Family Model.


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SAMHSA's National Registry of Evidence-based Practices and Programs:

"TFM is based in a cognitive–behavioral approach, which is derived from behavioral principles and learning theory. TFM is designed to reduce problem behaviors and increase prosocial behaviors among youths."



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"Family-Like Environment Better for Troubled Children and Teens, the Teaching-Family Model changes bad behavior through straight talk and loving relationships."

"...The Teaching-Family Model has also demonstrated how well-researched treatment programs can be implemented on a large scale. Most importantly, the Teaching-Family Model has given hope that young people with even the most difficult problems or behaviorscan improve the quality of their lives and make contributions to society."



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Scientific Rating: 3 - Promising Research Evidence

Child Welfare System Relevance Level: High

Rated by the CEBC in the areas of: Higher Levels of Placement and Behavioral Management Programs for Adolescents in Child Welfare.






In the late 1960’s, the National Institute of Mental Health provided major grants to fund research conducted by several pioneers of behavioral psychology with the Achievement Place Research Project at the University of Kansas. This research defined and refined a residential treatment model know today as the Teaching-Family Model (TFM). That Model was, and continues to be, consistently effective in changing the behavior of troubled youths. Since 1967, an international association, the Teaching-Family Association, has grown out of the demand to replicate this effective, humane model of treatment. The Teaching-Family Association is applied in many different programs – i.e., Group Homes, Treatment Foster Care, and Home-Based Treatment, etc. – each of which is based on the common Elements and tenets of the Teaching-Family Model. Today, the Model serves families; physically, emotionally, and sexually abused children; delinquent youths, emotionally disturbed and autistic children and adults; medically fragile children; and, adults with disabilities.

There has been much in the way of advancement and understanding relative to work in social services and the Teaching-Family Model.  Regular updates of the bibliography are made and we encourage professionals to provide us with the latest research and studies pertaining to the work supported by our members. 

TFA Outcomes Demonstrate Model Success!

The Outcomes Task Force issued its first request for data to the membership.  It was interesting to note that presenting problems appeared similar for all organizations.  These compare interestingly with national norms — the clients presenting at non-TFA agencies appear equally challenging.

Once we established TF clients are similar to other program clients, we could then look at outcomes to see if there were differences in this area.  Not surprisingly, there are real differences demonstrating, yet again, the Teaching-Family Model is a powerful program for success.

Gradepoint averages went up one full gradepoint when comparing the data for clients entering the program vs. clients exiting the program.

Restraints used in a group home setting averaged 1 in every 3.61 years…yes, that is a little over every three and half years.  This is absolutely incredible.  In treatment foster care, restraints averaged 1 in every 1.08 years.  This data confirms what we have known individually, anecdotally and intuitively: the Teaching-Family Model reduces restraints without sacrificing success…in fact, the Model improves success!

Probably the most remarkable datapoint was the restrictiveness of living comparison.  The restrictiveness of living dropped by almost two data points.  Those agencies using the Model with their clients were able to successfully discharge them to less restrictive environments upon departure.  This information can be used to show that not only is the Model successful in application, but it also is cost-effective over the long-term.

In order to continue to gather data, which we can disseminate as widely as possible, participation from all of our agencies is important.  When you are requested to compile data and provide information, please take the time to do so — collectively, those using the Teaching-Family Model have an incredible story to tell!

American Psychological Association Recognizes the Teaching-Family Model as Evidence-Based

The American Psychological Association, the leading organization representing psychology professionals, recently identified the Teaching-Family Model as an evidenced-based practice.  On the APA “Psychology Matters” website, the APA noted the Teaching-Family Model “is one of the few evidence-based residential treatment programs for troubled children”.

It was noted that the Model’s success is based on the view that children’s behavior problems stem from their lack of interpersonal relationships and skills.  It is through using empirically validated methods that the Model is able to teach clients how to build these relationships and gain important skills for social success.

The APA determination is not the first national recognition accorded to the Teaching-Family Model.  With over 30 years of studies and results, the Teaching-Family Model is one of the strongest and most studied evidence-based programs available for treatment.  The Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention and the Surgeon General’s Office have both recognized the Model as a strong, evidenced-based solution for treatment programming, as well.

The Teaching-Family Model is available in not only residential treatment programs but has also been used successfully in treatment foster care, home-based treatment, psychiatric institutions and schools.  The Teaching-Family Association offers accreditation to agencies in using the Teaching-Family Model.  This accreditation validates quality of the program in its use of the Model and integrity of the Model, its delivery systems and elements.  Accreditation also ensures quality replication enabling the Model to be implemented on a large scale across many different treatment environments with many different client populations.