Program

Dec 11, 2007

OVERVIEW

The
Cambridge-Somerville Youth Study program is a community based treatment program
established in 1935. The program has a focus on preventing delinquency,
although all children ages 5-13 were eligible for the program. A
randomized, experimental trial of the program was conducted in 1939 and lasted
for 5 years. A 30-year follow-up data collection found that the program
had no impact on delinquency on juveniles or when children in the program aged
into adulthood. Likewise, the program had no positive effects on health
of either juveniles or later adults. In fact, those in the program were
more likely to be re-arrested for crimes as youth and adults. Some negative
impacts on physical and psychological health were also found.

DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM

Target population: Boys ages 5 to 13 years
old

The Cambridge-Somerville Youth Study was a community based
program for children and adolescents in eastern Massachusetts. Children in the program
received a counselor who visited with them and their family twice a
month. These counselors are on call for problems that the family may have
been having and referred children to a variety of different programs including
tutoring, medical treatment, psychiatric treatment, summer camps, Boy Scouts,
YMCA, or other community programs.

EVALUATION(S) OF PROGRAM

McCord, J. (1978). A thirty-year
follow-up of treatment effects. American Psychologist, 2,
284-289.

Evaluated population: 506 boys ages 5 to
13 years old in eastern Massachusetts.

Approach:Children in the study were matched on
demographic variables and then randomly assigned
to either a control condition or the treatment condition. The only
exception to random assignment occurred when brothers were assigned to the
program; they were randomly assigned but to the same condition to prevent
contamination. Children in the intervention condition received an
individual counselor who visited the family around twice a month.
Children in the experimental group were referred to or received services in a
variety of areas: tutoring, medical, psychiatric, summer camps, Boy Scouts,
YMCA, or other community programs. Children in the control condition did
not receive any referrals or visits from a counselor. In this 30-year
evaluation, researchers traced records of all participants in the evaluation.

Results:In total, 95% of the original participants
were tracked using official state records. (Questionnaires were also
mailed out to participants who were tracked down but response rates to these
questionnaires ranged from 54-60% and therefore results from these will not be
reported.)

The program had no impacts on juvenile arrest rates measured
by official or unofficial records. The program also had no impacts on
adult arrest rates. There were no differences between the two groups in
the number of serious crimes committed, age at when a first crime was
committed, age when first committing a serious crime, or age after no serious
crime was committed. A larger proportion of criminals from the treatment
group went on to commit additional crimes than their counterparts in the
control group.

The researchers measured health status by gathering records
from Massachusetts
treatment centers and hospital. The program had no impact on the number
of men who had been treated for alcoholism. The program had no impact on
those who had received treatment in mental hospitals; but researchers found
that men who had been assigned to the treatment group were more likely to have
received more serious diagnoses like schizophrenia compared with men from the
control group who were more likely to have received less serious diagnoses such
as personality disorders. For those who had died before the 30-year
follow-up, the program had no impact on the type of death but researchers found
that men assigned to the treatment group were more likely to have died at
younger ages when compared with men in the control group.

SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION

A book with a full description of the program and history
behind it can be found at:

http://www.questia.com/library/book/an-experiment-in-the-prevention-of-delinquency-the-cambridge-somerville-youth-study-by-gordon-w-allport-edwin-powers-helen-witmer.jsp

References:

McCord, J. (1978). A thirty-year
follow-up of treatment effects. American Psychologist, 2,
284-289.

KEYWORDS:Youth,
Clinic-Based, Delinquency, Juvenile Offenders, Physical Health,
Social/Emotional Health, Mentoring, Tutoring, Family Therapy,
Counseling/Therapy,Home Visitation,
Substance Abuse, Alcohol, Mental Health, Middle Childhood (6-11), Adolescence
(12-17), Community or Media Campaign, Clinic-Based, Provider-Based, Behavioral
Problems, Children, Adolescents, male.

Program information last updated 12/11/07

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