I CAN DO is a school-based primary prevention program that uses a 13 session
curriculum to teach general coping skills and how to apply them to five
scenarios that many children experience: parental separation/divorce, loss of a
loved one, moving to a new home/school, spending significant time without adult
supervision, and feeling “different.” An experimental evaluation found positive
impacts for problem solving and self-efficacy, but not for knowledge of
stressors or social support network size.
DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM
Elementary school students
I CAN DO is a school-based primary prevention program designed to teach general
coping skills. It consists of a 13 session curriculum with each session lasting
about 45 minutes. The sessions are facilitated by clinical psychology graduate
students. The curriculum teaches coping skills that children learn to apply to
five stressful life experiences that they might have to deal with: parental
separation/divorce, loss of a loved one, moving to a new home/school, spending
significant time without adult supervision, and feeling “different.” The
curriculum is broken into six units. The first unit focuses on general coping
skills and introduces a six step problem solving sequence through activities and
role play exercises. It also teaches children to seek social support when they
encounter problems that are beyond their control. The other five units each
address one of the stressors. A film or story is used to introduce the stressor,
and then the children learn skills for coping with that stressor.
EVALUATION(S) OF PROGRAM
Eighty-eight fourth-grade students from two classrooms in each of two schools in
a small, primarily white lower-middle class, Midwestern town participated in the
study. The sample was 55 percent female, and 85 percent white, and 59 percent
came from two-parent homes.
In each school, one classroom was randomly assigned to complete the program
during the fall semester (immediate-intervention) and the other was assigned to
complete it during the spring semester (delayed-intervention control). Data for
this efficacy study were collected at the beginning and end of the fall semester
on knowledge about the five stressors, self-efficacy for coping with the
stressors, problem solving vignettes, and social support network size.
There was no program impact on knowledge of the stressors, although both groups
improved over time. There was a positive impact on self-efficacy for coping with
death or divorce, but not for overall self-efficacy or for coping with moving,
lack of adult supervision, or differences. Based on responses to the vignettes,
there was a positive impact on problem solving overall and for scenarios
involving feeling different, divorce, and social support. There was no impact on
social support network size.
SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION
Dubow, E.F., Schmidt, D. McBride, J., Edwards, S., & Merk, F.L. (1993). Teaching
children to cope with stressful experiences: Initial implementation and
evaluation of a primary prevention program.Journal of Clinical Child
Children (3-11), Elementary, Males and Females, Rural and/or Small Towns,
School-based, Skills Training, Other Social/Emotional Health
Program information last updated on 8/23/11.