This is a mentoring program for youth who show low levels of antisocial behavior. This program was rated Promising. Youth in the program had statistically significant improvements in offending behavior, antisocial behavior, negative affect, association with antisocial peers, emotional well-being, and involvement in education or employment, compared with youth in the control group, but not in volume of offending behavior, use of alcohol or drugs, impulsivity, or aspirations for the future.
The goals of the Coaching for Communities program are to reduce antisocial behaviors and build protective factors among youth through meaningful relationships with adult mentors.
The program targets mid-to-late teens who display low levels of antisocial behaviors in more than one area (e.g., behavior problems at home, crime in the community), but who do not display persistent delinquency (defined as three or more convictions in the past year). Furthermore, eligible youth must have one of the following risk factors: low self-esteem, high impulsivity, low levels of positive outlook, negative thoughts and feelings, low aspirations for the future, or involvement in antisocial peer networks.
The program has two components: 1) a 5-day residential retreat, and 2) 9 months of post-retreat support from an adult volunteer mentor. During the residential retreat, youth participate in intensive coursework exercises and physical activity led by program staff, which is designed to encourage prosocial behavior and improve sense of self-achievement and self-esteem. Coursework exercises explore a structured series of topics (e.g., learning from what one already knows, handling breakdowns, and distinguishing fact from interpretation) and require youth to identify the cause of their problems, consider consequences of their actions, and set related goals for themselves.
Following the retreat, each youth is assigned a mentor who works with him or her once a month for 9 months to help the youth achieve the personal goals that he or she set during the retreat. At each meeting, mentors and program staff work with youth on themed goals, including relationship building, personal aspirations, drug awareness, sexual health, community awareness and teamwork, car crimes, driving education, vocational skills, and self-expression. Each mentor is also expected to connect with the youth (directly or indirectly) at least three other times during the week. At the end of the program, youth who complete both components come together for a follow-up meeting.
Mentors and mentees are matched on a number of criteria, including gender, interests, and past experiences (Axford et al. 2006). Mentors and facilitators use a program manual to implement program components. The mentors are also expected to introduce the youth to new social networks. Attendance for each program component and the amount of contact between youth and their mentors is recorded.
Mentors are recruited from the local community, including local businesses. Mentors volunteer to work with their assigned youth for the duration of the 9-month, post-retreat follow-up period. Youth who meet the eligibility criteria are referred to the program by personnel from local children’s service agencies.
The program’s focus on providing youth with opportunities to reflect on their behaviors, consider the consequences of their actions, set related goals, and work on achieving those goals with support and modeling from their mentors and program staff is consistent with social-learning theory and social-cognitive theory. These theories suggest that behavior is a function of the interaction between personal factors and environmental stimuli that promote behavior change through a variety of processes, including vicarious learning and differential reinforcement (Bandura 1971, 1999). The program’s goals of using a supportive relationship with an adult mentor to build protective factors among youth at risk of antisocial behavior is also consistent with positive youth development models (Benson, Scales, Hamilton, and Sesma 2006).
Volume of Offending
Berry and colleagues (2009) found that youth in the intervention and control groups did not differ significantly in their change in total number of times being engaged in offending behavior from baseline to 12 months (end of program).
Variety of Offending
Youth in the intervention group had a statistically significant reduction in variety of offending behavior from baseline to 12 months, compared with youth in the control group.
Use of Drugs and Alcohol
Youth in the intervention and control groups did not differ significantly in change in volume of alcohol, drug, and substance use from baseline to 12 months.
Youth in the intervention group had a statistically significant reduction in levels of negative thoughts and feelings from baseline to 12 months, compared with youth in the control group.
Youth in the intervention and control groups did not differ significantly in change in reported levels of impulsivity from baseline to 12 months.
Youth in the intervention group had a statistically significant reduction in total difficulties (combination of emotional, hyperactivity, conduct, and peer problems) from baseline to 12 months, compared with youth in the control group.
Aspirations for the Future
There was no significant difference in change in future aspirations from baseline to 12 months between youth in the intervention and control groups.
Involved in Education/Employment
Youth in the intervention group were more likely to be involved in education or employment at 12 months than youth in the control group. This difference was statistically significant.
Youth in the intervention group had statistically significant reductions in number of friends with a negative influence and better prosocial networks, from baseline to 12 months, compared with youth in the control group.
Youth in the intervention group had statistically significant improvements in emotional well-being from baseline to 12 months, compared with youth in the control group.
Berry and colleagues (2009) evaluated the effect of the Coaching for Communities (CfC) program in a randomized controlled study among 63 young people (32 in the intervention group and 31 in the control group) recruited at a single program site in the United Kingdom. While youth in the intervention group received the CfC program, both intervention and control group youth continued to receive any services they were in contact with at the time of referral.
Outcome measures were collected from youth in both groups through self-report questionnaires. Data collection occurred at the following five time points for youth in the intervention group: at enrollment (Time 1), prior to coursework (Time 2), at the end of the residential period (Time 3), 4 months into the 9-month follow-through program (Time 4), and at the end of the follow-through period (Time 5). Data for youth in the control group was collected at three time points parallel to Times 1, 4, and 5.
Items from the Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime (ESYTC; Smith and McVie 2003) were used to assess whether youth engaged in 15 types of offenses (e.g., “Have you ever hit, kicked, or punched someone on purpose with the intention of hurting or injuring them?”). If the youth responded “Yes” to a behavior, follow-up questions then assessed frequency (“How many times have you done this?”) and whether the youth was caught (“Have you ever been caught doing this by an adult or the police?”). Some behaviors included additional follow-up questions (e.g., “The last time you did this, who did you hit, kick, or punch?” or “The last time you did this, what did you take from the store?”). The number of different offending behaviors were used to indicate variety of offending, and the estimated minimum total number of acts of offending behavior were used to indicate volume of offending. Furthermore, alcohol and drug use were assessed using relevant items from the ESTYC, including “During the last year, did you drink a whole alcoholic drink (for example, a whole can of beer or glass of wine)?” and “During the last year, did you take or try any illegal drugs (that includes sniffing gas or glue)?”
Negative affect was assessed using the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule for Children (Laurent et al. 1999). This subscale consists of a list of 15 words that indicate negative feelings and emotions (e.g., sad, scared, gloomy), and respondents were asked to indicate the extent to which they felt that emotion during the past few weeks. Response options ranged from 1 (very slightly or not at all) to 5 (extremely), with higher scores indicating more negative affect. Impulsiveness was assessed using the 9-item Benign Control subscale of the Emotional Control Questionnaire (Roger and Najarian 1989). Sample items included “I often do or say things I later regret”, “I sometimes just come out with things that embarrass people I’m with”, and “I often say things without thinking whether I might upset others”. Response options were true or false.
Antisocial behavior was assessed using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (Goodman 1997). This 25-item scale assesses behavior using five subscales, each containing five items: 1) emotional symptoms, 2) conduct problems, 3) hyperactivity-inattention, 4) peer relationship problems, and 5) prosocial behaviors. Sample items included “I try to be nice to other people. I care about their feelings” (prosocial behaviors), and “I am often unhappy, depressed or tearful” (emotional symptoms). Responses options consisted of 0 = not true , 1 = somewhat true, or 2 = certainly true. Five items were reverse scored: a higher score on a subscale was indicative of more problems, except for the prosocial scale, where higher scores corresponded to fewer difficulties in prosocial behavior. Future and career orientation and aspiration was measured using the 6-item Future Aspirations Scale. Items asked youth how important it was to them that in the future “You will graduate from high school” and “You will stay in good health” on a 4-point response scale, from 4 = very important to 1 = not at all important. Higher scores indicated stronger aspirations. Additional measures assessed whether youth were involved in education or employment, whether youth associated with antisocial peers, and youths’ emotional well-being.
Sixty-three percent of youth in the intervention group and 71 percent of youth in the control group remained in the study at the end of the program. Baseline differences between the intervention and control groups were assessed for two outcomes: volume of offending and involvement with antisocial peers. Regression analysis was used to compare differences on each outcome between the intervention and control groups from baseline to the end of the program (Time 5), adjusting for baseline scores on the outcome. No information was provided on the race/ethnicity and gender of the intervention and control groups.
There is no cost information available for this program.
Additional measures included in the study were the Rosenberg’s Self-Esteem Scale and the Positive Outlook– Individual Protective Factors Index. Berry and colleagues (2009) found that youth in the intervention group reported statistically significant improvements in self-esteem from baseline to 12 months, compared with youth in the control group. However, there were no statistically significant differences in changes in positive outlook from baseline to 12 months between the intervention and control groups.
Frequency of contact each week between the mentor and the youth did not have a significant association with change over time on outcome measures. However, the number of monthly staff-led meetings attended by the youth was associated with statistically significant improvements in outcomes.
Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)
These sources were used in the development of the program profile:Study 1
Berry, Vashti, Michael Little, Nick Axford, and Gretchen R. Cusick. 2009. “An Evaluation of Youth at Risk’s Coaching for Communities Programme.” The Howard Journal
These sources were used in the development of the program profile:
Axford, Nick, Vashti Berry, and Michael Little. 2006. “Enhancing Service Evaluability: Lessons from a Programme for Disaffected Young People.” Children and Society
Bandura, Albert. 1971. Social Learning Theory.
New York, N.Y.: General Learning Press.
Bandura, Albert. 1999. “Social Cognitive Theory: An Agentic Perspective.” Asian Journal of Social Psychology
Benson, Peter L., Peter Scales, Stephen Hamilton, and Arturo Sesma. 2006. “Positive Youth Development: Theory, Research, and Applications.” In Richard M. Lerner (ed.). Handbook of Child Psychology: Theoretical Models of Human Development.
Volume 1. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley and Sons, 894–94.
Goodman, Robert. 1997. “The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire: A Research Note.” Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
Laurent, Jeff, Salvatore J. Catanzaro, Thomas E. Joiner, Karen D. Rudolph, Kirsten J. Potter, Sharon Lambert, Lori Osborne, and Tamara Gathright. 1999. “A Measure of Positive and Negative Affect for Children: Scale Development and Preliminary Validation.” Psychological Assessment
Roger, D., and B. Najarian. 1989. “The Construction and Validation of a New Scale for Measuring Emotional Control.” Personality and Individual Differences
Smith, David J., and Susan McVie. 2003 “Theory and Method in the Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime.” British Journal of Criminology