Program

Dec 12, 2011

OVERVIEW

The Positive Youth Development Program is designed to
enhance general social competence and to prevent substance use in adolescents.
The program curriculum is delivered in the classroom, and comprises lessons on
stress management, self-esteem enhancement, problem-solving, health information,
assertiveness, and the use of social support networks. An experimental
evaluation found that, at post-test, program participants had significantly
greater improvements than the control group in terms of stress management,
alternative solution thinking, self-rated problem-solving efficacy, and
teacher-ratings of impulse control, popularity, and conflict resolution skills.
Both the program and control groups had significant increases in intentions to
use marijuana, wine, and cigarettes, but the intentions of control students to
use beer and hard-liquor were significantly higher than for those in the program
group. A significant difference between groups did exist in regards to changes
in excessive alcohol use, with control group students reporting significantly
greater increases in frequency of having three or more drinks on a single
occasion, frequency of having too much to drink, and in the amount of liquor,
wine, or beer consumed on a single occasion.

DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM

Target population:
Young Adolescents

The school-based program is designed to develop
personal and social competence, as well as substance use prevention. Students
attend 50-minute class sessions, twice per week, for a total of 20 sessions to
cover the entire program curriculum. Each class session is co-taught by
classroom teachers and master’s level health educators, both of whom are trained
through six 2-hour workshops, delivered by program developers. This is a very
structured program, and, in the evaluation study, weekly on-site visits by the
developers provided further levels of coaching and feedback once the curriculum
has begun.

Over the course of the program, there are six main
units of focus: stress management (looking at the causes and symptoms of stress
and adaptive methods of coping), self-esteem (improving self-concept through
examinations of positive personal goal-setting for healthy living), problem
solving (teaching a social problem-solving framework), substances and health
(detailing the negative social, physical, and legal consequences of substance
use), assertiveness (emphasizing behavioral strategies to effectively resist
pressure and communicate assertively), and social networks (encouraging students
to use and consider support resources available to them in their schools,
communities, and homes).

The program begins by focusing on general social
competence and works towards having students use the skills and knowledge they
have acquired to dilemmas involving drug and alcohol use. Each session builds
off of what was covered previously, so as to develop a sequential and integrated
learning process. Because the skills being taught and highlighted in the
program are meant to be applicable to a broad range of circumstances, real-life
social tasks (relevant to each session’s students) are the focus of session
discussions. Several techniques are used to teach skills, including videotapes,
class discussions, work sheets, didactic instruction, small-group role-plays,
homework assignments, and diaries.

EVALUATION(S) OF PROGRAM

Evaluated population: A total of 282 students ages 11 to 14 were recruited for participation in this
study. Participants were taken from classes within one inner-city and one
suburban middle school in south-central Connecticut (both considered to be
representative of such a school setting). After hearing the program described,
interested teachers’ classes were stratified within ability groupings. In the
inner city sample, 55 percent were male, 90 percent were black, 8 percent were
Hispanic, and 2 percent were mixed ethnic origin. In the suburban sample, 54
percent were male, 99 percent were white, and 1 percent were Hispanic.

Approach: Participants were randomly assigned to either the youth development program
(N=109) or a control group (N=173). Students in the control condition received
normal academic science lessons, which included instructions highlighting
physical effects resulting from drug use. There were no significant differences
between groups in terms of demographics at baseline. However, at pretest
students in the program group generated a significantly larger number (and
higher quality) of coping strategies to hypothetical stressful situation, as
well as a significantly greater number of alternatives solutions to a
peer-pressure problem. Also, teachers rated program students as being
significantly less popular than those in the control condition. Analyses
including pretest scores as covariates did not affect the findings.

To measure the effectiveness of the program, data
were collected on coping skills (alternative solution thinking and stress
management), social and emotional adjustment (conflict resolution with peers,
impulse control, popularity, and assertiveness with adults, both self- and
teacher-rated), and self-reported intentions, attitudes, and use of drugs and
alcohol. Data were collected at baseline and at post-test immediately following
program completion. A weakness of the design is that teachers co-taught the
classes and provided ratings of students.

Results: At
post-test, a statistically significant improvement existed for those in the
program group compared with the control group, in terms of both the quantity and
effectiveness of solutions to peer pressure problem and the quantity and
adaptiveness of stress management strategies. Significant improvements relative
to the control group were found for the program group in terms of teacher-rated
social and emotional adjustment for three categories (conflict resolution with
peers, popularity, and impulse control). However, a significant difference did
not exist between groups in terms of assertiveness with adults. Self-rated
gains for the program group versus the controls were also found for feelings of
problem-solving efficacy.

In terms of intentions to use drugs and alcohol, both
the program and control groups had significant increases in intentions to use
marijuana, wine, and cigarettes. However, intentions of control students to use
beer and hard-liquor were significantly higher than for those in the program
group. There were no significant differences between groups in terms of
attitudes towards drinking and smoking, and there were no significant
differences in terms of self-reported changes in frequency of substance use.
However, a significant difference between groups was found for changes in
excessive alcohol use. Students in the control group increased significantly
(compared with the program group) in frequency of having three or more drinks on
a single occasion, frequency of having too much to drink, and in the amount of
liquor, wine, or beer consumed on a single occasion. Results were similar for
the inner city and suburban samples.

SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION

References:

Caplan, M., Weissberg, R. P., Grober, J. S., Sivo, P.
J., Grady, K., & Jacoby, C. (1992). Social competence promotion with inner-city
and suburban young adolescents: Effects on social adjustment and alcohol use.Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 60(1), 56-63.

KEYWORDS:
Children, Adolescents, Middle School, Males and Females (Co-Ed), Black/African
American, Urban, Suburban, School-Based, Skills Training, Social Skills/Life
Skills, Self-Esteem/Self-Concept, Tobacco Use, Marijuana/Illicit/Prescription
Drugs, Alcohol Use

Program information last updated 12/12/11

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