1. Positive Youth Development Program (Connecticut)

Positive Youth Development Program (Connecticut)

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.

Intervention ID

11 to 14


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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