Program

Apr 11, 2016

OVERVIEW

Becoming a Man (BAM) is a program for teen boys who are at high risk for committing crimes and dropping out of school.  A two-year random assignment study found that adolescents assigned to the intervention had fewer arrests for violent and other crimes at the end of the program year, compared with those assigned to the control group.  Teens assigned to the intervention also had higher grades and slightly better attendance and lower dropout rates at the end of both the program year and the following year than their peers in the control group did.

In a second study, the curriculum was implemented in schools without other extracurricular programing so that the mechanism of BAM versus other after-school activities could be studied.  Results were similar suggesting there is an impact of BAM and not simply other after-school programming.

DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM

Target population: Low-income, male teens at high risk of committing crimes and dropping out of school

Becoming a Man (BAM) is a school-based intervention that aims to lower the number of crimes male adolescents commit and to improve their school attendance and grades.  There are two versions of this program; both give teens a chance to interact with role model adults on a regular basis.  The in-school version is made up of 27 1-hour weekly sessions, which adolescents miss a class to attend.  In this version, cognitive behavioral therapy and tools like self-analysis, movies, and “behavior experiments” are used to teach adolescents to recognize and reduce problematic automatic behaviors and biased beliefs, such as hostile attribution bias. The after-school version is made up of 1- to 2-hour sessions in which adolescents are taught non-traditional sports (e.g., boxing, weightlifting, and archery) and encouraged to reflect on their automatic behaviors.   The program is manualized, and the treatment cost is $1,100 per participant. The program can be implemented by college-educated staff without a specific background in social work or psychology.  The Becoming a Man (BAM) intervention uses cognitive behavioral therapy to try to help young people become more cognizant and aware of the choices they are making in specific environments.

EVALUATION OF PROGRAM

Heller, S., Pollack, H. A., Ander, R., & Ludwig, J. (2013). Preventing youth violence and dropout: A randomized field experiment. NBER Working Paper Series, Working Paper 19014.

Evaluated population: A total of 2,740 low-income male students in grades 7-10 at high risk for committing crimes and dropping out of school were recruited for the study from 18 Chicago Public Schools (CPS) in the South and West side.  Adolescents who only went to school rarely and who had serious disabilities were not allowed to participate.  All youth belonged to minorities (70% African American and 30% Hispanic).  The average participating adolescent had poor grades (GPA=1.7), a poor school attendance record (76%), and was old for his grade level (>50%).  Additionally, more than one-third of subjects had been arrested at least once.

Approach: Youth were recruited from grades 7 through 10 in 18 public schools; within each school, they were randomly assigned to a treatment group, which received programming during school, after school, or both, or to a control group that received no programming.  Students were randomized into one of four groups: in-school, after-school, both, or neither (the control group).  However, cross-over between treatment groups occurred, so results primarily compare the control group to the three treatment groups combined. Cross overs also occurred between boys in the treatment and control groups; but data analyses are based on their original assignments.  School fixed effects were used to account for clustering resulting from the randomization at the school level.

Treatment sessions were led by staff from two community organizations, Youth Guidance and World Sport Chicago, who were trained to implement BAM.  CPS school records collected at the end of program year and the next year were used to provide information about subjects’ grades, attendance, and school enrollment status.  Information about the number of times adolescents were arrested for violent, drug, property, and other (not violence- drug-, or property-related) crimes were taken from the Illinois State Police electronic arrest records at the end of the same two years.

Results: During the program year, teens assigned to the intervention groups had significantly fewer arrests for violent crimes (20% fewer) and for other crimes (13% fewer) than their peers in the control group did.  No significant program impact was found for rates of arrests for property and drug crimes or for arrests in the year following program implementation.  The GPAs of teens assigned to the program were significantly higher than those of teens assigned to the control group in both the program year and especially during the next year.  Teens who were assigned to the intervention also had slightly (marginally significant) better attendance records and lower dropout rates for both the program year and the following year than their peers in the control group did.

This paper explored how automaticity impacts kids differently.  The authors posited that wealthier kids benefit from automatically being able to listen to and trust figures of authority.  This is true in school, at home, and in their broader environments.  Adults and other people follow certain rules.  For young people who live in neighborhoods where social disorder rules human interaction on the streets, they assert automatically trusting authoritative figures can be harmful if this makes them look weak or easy to take advantage of.  For them, standing strong against authority can be protective in the long run.  The BAM intervention aims to help kids more intentionally slow down, stop, and think about their behavior instead of automatically engaging in similar behavior in all different situations.

EVALUATION OF PROGRAM

Heller, S.B., Shah, A.J., Guryan, J., Ludwig, J., Mullainathan, S., and Pollack, H.A. (2015). Thinking Fast and Slow?  Some Field Experiment to Reduce Crime and Dropout in Chicago. NBER Working Paper Series, 1-55.

Evaluated population: In this second evaluation of the BAM intervention, young people were again randomized to participate in the program or a control.  The difference between this study and the one above was that no after school programming was offered in some of the schools so the study was able to test if impacts found were as a result of the BAM curriculum versus other after school programming that existed (such as sports clubs for example).  The intervention was offered in nine Chicago public high schools on the south and west sides and 2,064 male 9th and 10th graders who were randomized into the BAM program or a control group.  The average age of the sample was 14.8 years, 69 percent of the participants were Black and 29 percent were Latino, just over one third were old for their grade, most had a C range GPA and just under a quarter had ever been arrested.   Most arrests were for “other crime” while violent, property and drug crimes were reported in that order although with fairly similar frequency.  The only category for which there was a statistically significant difference between the control and intervention groups at baseline was for the number of days  present in school: those in the control reported being in school 1.7 more days per year (148.1 versus 149.8).

Approach: Young people were randomly assigned within schools to participate in BAM once a week during the school day or a control condition that provided services as the status quo in each school.  This meant that in schools where programming already existed youth assigned to the control group could participate but nothing was provided in schools where programming did not already exist.  Approximately half of the students who were randomized to the intervention group actually participated in the BAM program.  This is consistent with other social experiments.  The main outcomes studied were school engagement (created as a summary index of GPA, days present, and enrollment status at the end of the year) and arrests per year.  The arrest results are shown together and then also disaggregated into groups by arrest type: violence property, drug, and other.  Attrition is not reported.

Results: In this study, all of the outcomes studied moved in the predicted direction – towards less violence – though none reached statistical significance at the five percent level.  One outcome – all offenses – was marginally significant (p<.1).  For the schools where no after-school programming existed, impacts of BAM are similar to those where after-school programming did exist.

SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION

References

Heller, S., Pollack, H. A., Ander, R., & Ludwig, J. (2013). Preventing youth violence and dropout: A randomized field experiment. NBER Working Paper Series, Working Paper 19014.

Heller, S.B., Shah, A.J., Guryan, J., Ludwig, J., Mullainathan, S., and Pollack, H.A. (2015). Thinking Fast and Slow?  Some Field Experiment to Reduce Crime and Dropout in Chicago. NBER Working Paper Series, 1-55.

More information about the Becoming a Man – Sports Edition intervention can be found at the websites of the two organization that have implemented it: http://www.youth-guidance.org/our-programs/b-a-m-becoming-a-man/ and http://www.worldsportchicago.org/programs/becoming-a-man-sports-edition/ or by contacting World Sports Chicago at bamsport@worldsportchicago.org or 312-861-4935.

KEYWORDS: adolescents, youth, middle school, high school, male only, high-risk, juvenile offenders, black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, urban, school-based, cost, counseling/therapy, skills training, after school program, attendance, academic achievement/grades, high school completion/dropout, delinquency

Program information last updated on 4/11/16.