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Program Profile: Positive Youth Development Program (Connecticut)

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study Promising - One study

Date: This profile was posted on January 30, 2013

Program Summary

A school-based prevention program that taught students cognitive, behavioral and affective skills, and encouraged them to apply these skills when dealing with daily challenges, problems, and decisions. The program is rated Promising. Compared with control students, program participants improved in coping skills, social and emotional adjustment.

Program Description

Program Goals/Target Population
The Positive Youth Development Program was a school-based prevention program that taught students cognitive, behavioral, and affective skills and encouraged them to apply these skills when dealing with daily challenges, problems, and decisions. The program targeted youths in middle and junior high schools.

Program Components
The program was a structured 121-page, 20-session curriculum designed to promote adolescents’ personal and social competence. The curriculum was implemented during two 50-minute classes per week throughout a 15-week period. The curriculum was composed of six primary units:
  • Stress management: in this unit, the focus was on causes and symptoms of stress during early adolescence, and students were taught adaptive ways to cope.
  • Self-esteem: students were taught how to improve their self-concept by looking at their personal positive attributes and setting goals for healthy living.
  • Problem solving: the social problem-solving framework was taught (e.g., problem identification, alternative solution generation, evaluation of consequences, plan implementation) so students could handle a variety of social problems.
  • Substances and health information: Students were provided with information on adverse physical, social, and legal consequences of substance use.
  • Assertiveness: this unit highlighted specific behavioral strategies for assertive communication to resist pressure.
  • Social networks: in the final unit, students were encouraged to examine and use the support resources available in their homes, schools, and communities.
Each session built on the previous session, thus providing a sequential, integrated program that facilitated students’ understanding and mastery of the subject matter. The curriculum focused on general social competence promotion, but students were also provided with the opportunity to apply their knowledge and skills in dilemmas involving alcohol and drug use.

The sessions were taught by a master’s-level health educator who used techniques including didactic instruction, class discussion, videotapes, diaries, small-group role plays, work sheets, and homework assignments. Program instructors were also encouraged to emphasize the relevance of skills being taught in discussions that focused on real-life social challenges for students.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
Coping Skills

Caplan and colleagues (1992) found that compared with control students, students who participated in the Positive Youth Development Program significantly improved in the quantity and effectiveness of solutions generated in response to a hypothetical peer pressure situation. Program students also significantly improved in the quantity and adaptiveness of stress management strategies used when they were anxious or upset.

Social and Emotional Adjustment
When compared with control students, teachers reported that program students significantly improved in three of four adjustment indices: conflict resolution with peers, impulse control, and popularity. However, program participants did not improve in the assertiveness with adults index.

Intentions, Attitudes, and Self-Reported Substance Use
There were no significant differences between the program and control groups in measures of self-reported intentions to use various substances. Control students’ intentions to use beer and hard liquor increased significantly, while program students’ intentions remained stable. However, there were significant increases in both the program and control groups in intentions to use cigarettes, marijuana, and wine.

With regard to general attitudes toward smoking and drinking, there were no significant differences between the groups.

For self-reported frequency of experimental substance use, there were no significant differences between the program and control groups. However, with regard to self-reported excessive alcohol use, results indicated that compared with program students, control students reported significant increases in the (1) frequency of having three or more drinks on a single occasion; (2) frequency of having too much to drink; and (3) amount of beer, wine, or liquor they usually consumed on a single occasion.
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
The evaluation by Caplan and colleagues (1992) used a quasi-experimental research design with comparison groups to evaluate the Positive Youth Development Program. Study participants were drawn from an inner-city middle school and suburban middle school in South Central Connecticut. The program was described to teachers at four middle schools. Teachers were then given the opportunity to voluntarily participate. Those who volunteered had their classrooms assigned to a control or program condition, based on scheduling and comparability of academic-ability grouping levels across conditions.

The sample consisted of 282 sixth and seventh grade students. The mean age of the sample was 12 years (ages 11 to 14). The inner-city sample consisted of 72 program students and 134 control students. The inner-city sample was 55 percent male and 90 percent black, 8 percent Hispanic, and 2 percent of mixed ethnic origin. The suburban sample included 37 program students and 39 control students. The suburban sample was 54 percent male and 99 percent white and 1 percent Hispanic. There were no significant differences between the program and control groups in terms of gender and race.

Primary outcomes of interest included coping skills, social and emotional adjustment, self-reported intentions to use alcohol and drugs, and actual use of alcohol and drugs. Two skill-assessment measures were administered to students to evaluate coping skills. The first measure was an alternative solutions test adapted from the Decision-Making Questionnaire that evaluated the quantity and effectiveness of solutions in a hypothetical vignette involving peer pressure to smoke. The second measure asked students to list the different things they do to calm themselves down when they feel anxious or stressed. To measure social and emotional adjustment, a teacher rating scale was developed that provided an independent assessment of students’ school behavior. To measure intentions to use various substances, students were asked to indicate what they would say if a friend offered them cigarettes, beer, wine, hard liquor, marijuana, cocaine, crack, depressants, or stimulants. To measure substance use, students were asked to indicate how often they had used cigarettes, beer, wine, hard liquor, marijuana, cocaine, crack, depressants, or stimulants in the past 2 months. Students were also asked about experimental drinking and excessive use of alcohol.

Self-report surveys were administered to students during one class period at both pre- and postassessment (the length of the follow-up period was not provided in the study). Results were analyzed with multivariate analyses of variance.
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There is no cost information available for this program.
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Other Information (Including Subgroup Findings)

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The Positive Youth Development Program was combined with an earlier version (called the Yale–New Haven Social Problem Solving Program) to create a broader program called the Social Competence Promotion Program for Young Adolescents (Greenberg, Domitrovich, and Bumbarger 2001; Weissberg, Barton, and Shriver 1997).
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
Caplan, M., Roger P. Weissberg, Jacqueline S. Grober, Patricia J. Sivo, Katherine Grady, and Carole Jacoby. 1992. “Social Competence Promotion With Inner-City and Suburban Young Adolescents: Effects on School Adjustment and Alcohol Use.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 60(1):56–63.
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Greenberg, Mark T., Celene Domitrovich, and Brian Bumbarger. 2001. “The Prevention of Mental Disorders in School-Aged Children: Current State of the Field.” Prevention & Treatment 4(1):1–62.

Weissberg, Roger P., Heather A. Barton, and Timothy P. Shriver. 1997. “The Social Competence Promotion Program for Young Adolescents.” In G.W. Albee and T.P. Gullotta (eds.). Primary Prevention Works. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications, 268–90.
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Related Practices

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Following are practices that are related to this program:

School-Based Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Programs
Designed to foster the development of five interrelated sets of cognitive, affective, and behavioral competencies, in order to provide a foundation for better adjustment and academic performance in students, which can result in more positive social behaviors, fewer conduct problems, and less emotional distress. The practice was rated Effective in reducing students’ conduct problems and emotional stress.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Effective - One Meta-Analysis Juvenile Problem & At-Risk Behaviors - Multiple juvenile problem/at-risk behaviors
Effective - One Meta-Analysis Mental Health & Behavioral Health - Internalizing behavior
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Program Snapshot

Age: 11 - 14

Gender: Both

Race/Ethnicity: Black, Hispanic, White, Other

Geography: Suburban, Urban

Setting (Delivery): School

Program Type: Classroom Curricula, Conflict Resolution/Interpersonal Skills, Alcohol and Drug Prevention

Current Program Status: Not Active

Listed by Other Directories: Model Programs Guide

Program Developer:
Roger Weissberg
Department of Psychology (M/C 285)
1007 West Harrison Street
Chicago IL 60607-7137
Phone: 312.355.0640
Fax: 312.355.0559