Program

Sep 16, 2011

OVERVIEW

The PALS Skills Training program attempts to
reduce drug use by applying cognitive and behavioral training techniques to help
adolescents improve their social skills. An experimental evaluation of the
program found that it had mainly detrimental impacts. Adolescents who
participated in the program, especially those who did not use drugs at baseline,
were significantly more likely to use drugs at the 3-month follow-up than
adolescents in the control group.

DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM

Target population:
Adolescent females at risk for drug abuse

The PALS Skills
Training program uses cognitive and behavioral training techniques to help teens
improve their social skills and restructure their social networks. The program
attempts to help teens refuse requests to engage in high-risk behaviors,
appropriately handle criticism, spend more time with positive peers and less
time with negative peers, and develop strong problem solving skills. The program
utilizes a variety of teaching techniques, including providing scientific facts,
modeling, role play, and homework assignments. The program is delivered by
Master’s level social workers or health educators to small groups of 8 to 12
adolescents. Sessions last for 90 minutes and occur once a week for 16 weeks.

EVALUATION(S) OF PROGRAM

Palinkas, L.A.,
Atkins, C.J., Miller, C., & Ferreira, D. (1996). Social skills training for drug
prevention in high-risk female adolescents. Preventive Medicine, 25,
692-701.

Evaluated population:
The study evaluated 296 female adolescents, of
whom 38 percent were African American, 46 percent were Mexican American, 9
percent were non-Hispanic whites, and 8 percent were Asian and Pacific
Islanders, Native Americans, or others. The mean age of participants was 16
years old. Forty-one percent of teens came from single parent homes and the
median annual household income was $16,000. Eleven percent of the participants
had dropped out of school, and 30 percent were pregnant or parenting. All
participants were at risk for drug use based on a screening assessment.

Approach:
Participants were recruited from medical offices and schools and by community
professionals. All participants attended a 90-minute normative education class
once a week that covered issues related to sexuality, contraception, STDs,
substance use, sexual assault and domestic violence. Half of the participants
were randomly assigned to receive the PALS Skills Training curriculum in
addition to the normative education class. Half of all participants were
randomly assigned to receive case management services as well, but those results
are not reported in this study.

Participants were
assessed at five time points: pre-intervention, mid-intervention,
post-intervention, 3 months post-intervention, and 12 months post-intervention.
Assessments included self-report measures of drug use and urine toxicology
screens, which were used to improve the validity of self-reports. Only results
from the pre-intervention, post-intervention, and 3 months post-intervention
assessments are reported in this study.

Results: The
program had mainly detrimental impacts. At three months post-intervention,
adolescents who participated in the PALS Skills Training program were
significantly less likely to report using alcohol (OR = 0.9), but significantly
more likely to report using any drug (OR = 1.3). For adolescents who did not use
drugs at baseline, those who participated in the intervention were significantly
more likely to use alcohol (OR = 1.2), marijuana (OR = 2.9), tobacco (OR = 0.8),
other illicit drugs (OR = 0.8), and any drug (OR = 2.0) at the 3-month
follow-up.

SOURCES FOR MORE
INFORMATION

References

Palinkas, L.A.,
Atkins, C.J., Miller, C., & Ferreira, D. (1996). Social skills training for drug
prevention in high-risk female adolescents. Preventive Medicine, 25,
692-701.

KEYWORDS:
adolescents (12-17), female only, adolescent mothers, high-risk, black/African
American, Hispanic/Latino, clinic/provider-based, skills training, tobacco use,
marijuana/illicit/ prescription drugs, alcohol use

Program
information last updated 9/16/11.