Positive Action

Program Goals and Theory

The Positive Action (PA) program is designed to improve youth academics, behavior, and character. PA uses an audience-centered, curriculum-based approach to increase positive behaviors and decrease negative ones.

PA is grounded in a broad theory of self-concept. It relies on intrinsic motivation for developing and maintaining positive behavioral patterns and teaches skills focused on learning and motivation for achieving success and happiness for everyone. The premise—that you feel good about yourself when you do positive actions and there is always a positive way to do everything—is represented by the self-reinforcing “thoughts–actions–feelings” circle: positive thoughts lead to positive actions, positive actions lead to positive feelings about oneself, and positive feelings lead to more positive thoughts.

Target Population and Sites

PA has been implemented in national and international alternative and mainstream settings. It has been delivered to individuals of various ages, genders, ethnicities and races, cultures, and socioeconomic levels in rural, suburban, and urban areas. The program has been used in school settings, before- and after-school programs, social service agencies, detention centers, home schooling, youth programs, family and juvenile justice agencies, correctional institutions, probation and parole settings, mental health and welfare agencies, faith-based organizations, public housing developments, and other programs specifically for high-risk, at-risk, special-needs, and disadvantaged individuals, families, schools, and communities, including court-mandated family groups.

Program Components

The program addresses diverse problems, such as substance use, violence-related behavior, disruptive behavior, and bullying, as well as social–emotional learning, positive youth development, character, and academics.

The PA program portfolio features interactive, ready-to-use kits that contain 15 to 20 minutes of scripted lessons for schools, families, and communities. The content concentrates on three core elements:

  • The program philosophy
  • The thoughts–actions–feelings circle
  • Six content units on self-concept; positive actions for body and mind; social and emotional positive actions for managing oneself responsibly; social and emotional positive actions for getting along with others; social and emotional positive actions for being honest; and social and emotional positive actions for self improvement

These unit lessons cover diverse topics such as nutrition, problem-solving, decision-making, study skills, self-control, managing personal resources, social skills, self-honesty, and setting and achieving goals.

Intervention ID

0 to 18


Study 1

Substance Use

Data analyses from Beets and colleagues (2009) revealed that self-reporting of lifetime use of substances was significantly lower for students participating in Positive Action (PA) than for the control group, although teacher reporting of student lifetime use was not significant.

Violent Behavior

Student self-reporting of violent behavior was significantly lower for the treatment group, a finding confirmed by teacher reports of student violent behaviors.

Sexual Activity

Findings regarding sexual activity were not significant.

Problem Behaviors

A dose-response trend for both student and teacher reports of student behaviors was also observed; students who received 3 to 4 years of PA had significantly lower problem behaviors (substance use, violent behavior, and voluntary sexual activity) reported by themselves and teachers than students with less than 3 years of PA.

Study 2

Lifetime Prevalence of Substance Use and Serious Violence-Related Behavior

Li and colleagues (2011) found that students in the treatment group endorsed significantly fewer items for substance use and serious violence, when compared with control group students. There was a 31 percent reduction among treatment participants in substance use behaviors and a 36 percent reduction in violence behavior.

Bullying and Disruptive Behaviors

Students in the treatment group also endorsed significantly fewer items for bullying, compared with control group students. There was a 41 percent reduction in bullying behaviors. Treatment group students also reported engaging in fewer disruptive behaviors compared with the control group students, but the effect was not statistically significant. This reduction amounted to 27 percent.

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