Mar 16, 2007


Girls Incorporated Friendly PEERsuasion, initiated in 1988, is a program aimed at preventing substance abuse and changing substance abuse behavior of at-risk middle-school aged girls. The program is based on social influence and like skills models and designed to offer girls skills and support systems to prevent future substance abuse through sessions facilitated by a trained adult leader, hands-on interactive activities, and group discussions. Evaluation of the PEERsuasion program showed that program participants were more successful in avoiding use of cigarettes, alcohol, or other drugs and were more prone to leave situations where substances were being used. The program was more effective for younger girls and for girls that participated in the fall intervention.


Target population: Girls in grades 6-8 who were considered at-risk for substance abuse

The Girls Incorporated Friendly PEERsuasion program is designed to change and prevent substance abuse in at-risk girls, grades 6-8.  The program, based on the social influence and life skills model, examines the patterns, causes, and consequences of substance abuse in middle school girls. PEERsuasion encourages girls to learn how to make their own decisions, resist peer pressure, create positive peer groups, and become role models through specified program activities. Participants complete a two-phase program, which consists of 14-hour long sessions in the first phase and eight to ten half-hour sessions in the second. For both sessions, an adult leader led group discussions and hands-on, interactive activities.


Weiss, F. L., & Nicholson, H.J (1998). Friendly PEERsuasion against substance use: The Girls Incorporated model and evaluation. Drugs & Society, 12(1/2), 7-22.

 Evaluated population: 127 girls (49 treatment, 78 comparison) ages 11-15 at the Birmingham, Alabama site. The second evaluation of all four sites included 354 participants (152 treatment, 202 comparison)

Approach: The four demonstration sites recruited over 100 girls each, in grades 6-8, and participants were then randomly assigned to the fall or spring Friendly PEERsuasion. The sites evaluated 354 girls, 152 of those belonging to the treatment group and 202 belonging to the comparison group. The participants were geographically, racially, and ethnically diverse. Girls Incorporated used a delayed entry design to avoid ethical problems. Participants at the sites filled out four program questionnaires before and after the program. Data from these questionnaires provided an explanation of experimental and control groups. Self-reports were used to measure outcomes of interest and further forms were used to judge individual levels of program participation.

The program was mot effectively implemented at the Birmingham site. The Friendly PEERsuasion offered at Birmingham (Chaiken, Maltz, and Smith, 1990) presented two public schools with evaluative programs. The program was implemented as close to evaluation design as possible. The differences of the self-report questionnaires were compared using Pearson’s r. About 93 percent of the participants provided adequate data to be used for analyses.

Results: The program was more successful in delaying initial substance use in younger participants (ages 11-12) rather than older girls (13-15). Of the younger participants, no girls in the treatment group reported substance abuse immediately post-treatment, compared to an 8-percentage point increase in the comparison group. Younger girls proved less likely to use “gateway drugs.”  These girls also reported leaving situations where friends were abusing substances. These researchers suggested, based on these findings, that programs be implemented for preteen girls to deter substance abuse. Impacts for the older girls were very small.

The Friendly PEERsuasion evaluation of the three other sites, Pinellas, Rapid City, and Worcester by Smith and Kennedy, 1991, reported that these sites had lower attendance and attrition than Birmingham. These sites were also less able to stick to the evaluation design due to difficult circumstances. As a result, these evaluations can only be used suggestively. The findings, across all four sites, mirrored those of the Birmingham study.




Weiss, F. L., & Nicholson, H.J (1998). Friendly PEERsuasion against substance use: The Girls Incorporated model and evaluation. Drugs & Society, 12(1/2), 7-22.


Program also discussed in the following Child Trends publication(s):

Program categorized in this guide according to the following:

 Evaluated participant ages: 11-14/ Program age ranges in the Guide:  6-11, 12-14

Program components: school-based

Measured outcomes: social and emotional health and development; physical health; life skills

Keywords: Middle childhood (3-11), Children (3-11), Adolescence (12-17), School-based, High-risk, Substance abuse, alcohol use, tobacco use, illicit drugs, gender-specific (female only), African American or black, White or Caucasian, Hispanic or Latino, Native American, Middle School, life skills training, Social/Emotional health.

Program information last updated 3/16/07