Raising Healthy Children (RHC) is a comprehensive, school-based preventive intervention that concentrates on promoting positive youth development by using a social developmental approach to target risk and protective factors. The school and family environment are incorporated into the individual programming, which targets the child. The program covers children from kindergarten through high school with developmentally and age-appropriate material at different stages. The main goals of RHC are to increase school commitment, academic performance, and social competency and to reduce antisocial behavior.
RHC is targeted toward all elementary through high school students and their parents. Teachers are involved in the programming but the emphases are on children and their families.
The working hypothesis of RHC is that children learn patterns of behavior from socializing units of family and school. As children age, peers play a larger role in their behavior. Socialization involves four related principles: 1) perceived opportunities for involvement in activities and interactions with others, 2) actual degree of involvement and interactions, 3) skills to participate successfully in these interactions and activities, and 4) reinforcement perceived from these interactions and activities. When socializing processes are consistent, a social bond develops between the child and the socializing unit. This bond will guide the child’s behavior, inhibiting certain actions while encouraging others. The goal is to have children socialize and form bonds with prosocial people, leading to positive behaviors and youth development.
The multifaceted program targets teachers, parents, and students. Teachers receive workshops that concentrate on training them to use classroom management skills and effective learning strategies that can reduce students’ early aggressive behaviors and academic risk factors while increasing protective factors. Some examples of workshop topics are proactive classroom management, cooperative learning methods, and strategies to enhance student motivation. These workshops are supported with classroom coaching and monthly booster sessions to reinforce teaching strategies. Teachers may be provided with a substitute for a half-day so they can observe another teacher using the RHC teaching strategies in the classroom. The school intervention component concentrates on enhancing students’ learning, interpersonal, and problem-solving skills, while also increasing academic performance and bonding to school.
Students receive classes and exercises in social and emotional development, conflict resolutions, consequential thinking, and problem-solving. These lessons are tailored to the child’s age, as the program covers the grades of kindergarten through high school. For instance, younger students may participate in afterschool tutoring sessions and study clubs during elementary school, but older students may be involved in individualized learning sessions and group-based workshops in middle and high schools. The student component of RHC is designed to improve academic performance, increase bonding to the school, teach refusal skills, and build up prosocial beliefs about healthy and conventional behaviors. RHC also offers summer camp programs for students with academic or behavioral problems who were personally recommended by their teachers in elementary school as well as social skills booster retreats in middle school. The program provides students with peer intervention strategies that teach social, emotional, and problem-solving skills.
Parents also are provided with structured multisession workshops, special topical workshops, and in-home sessions for selected families. The parental workshops are delivered by school–home coordinators (SHCs). These staff members are expert classroom teachers and specialists who are specially trained to provide services to parents and families. Parents learn how to provide reinforcement for good behavior and consequences for bad behavior and to communicate with their children. Topics can include “Raising Healthy Children,” “How to Help Your Child Succeed in School,” and “Preparing for the Drug-Free Years.” The standard training for parents is five workshops or in-home sessions. Those who need extra support can receive 12 sessions. There are an additional six booster sessions designed to help parents as their child grows, transitions to high school, and begins to encounter more challenging issues. The family intervention component of RHC is designed to enhance parenting skills, decrease family conflict, and make clear family standards and rules about specific student behaviors (such as substance use, dating, and sex).
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Although the results from Study 1 found significant and positive effects on Raising Healthy Children (RHC) program students’ academic performance, antisocial behavior, and social competency based on teacher data, the results were not supported by parent and child data. In addition, the preponderance of evidence in Study 2 indicated that the RHC program did not have an effect on students. Specifically, although the intervention did have an effect on the frequency of alcohol and marijuana use, there was no significant impact on prevalence of alcohol, marijuana, and cigarette use.
School Commitment and Academic Performance
The results from the analyses conducted by Catalano and colleagues (2003) of the teacher data showed that students who received the RHC program had a significantly higher level of commitment to school than the students in the control condition. Program students also had a significantly higher level of teacher-rated academic performance than control students. The parent data showed that RHC students had significantly higher academic performance and school commitment ratings than control students.
The teacher data showed that students receiving the RHC program had a significantly lower level of antisocial behavior, compared with control group students, and displayed a decreasing growth rate as well. The growth rate for the control students actually increased, and they had a higher level of antisocial behavior by the end of the study. However, the parent and child self-report data did not reveal any significant difference between the treatment and control groups for antisocial behavior.
Reports from teachers showed that students receiving the RHC program displayed an increasing growth rate for social competency and had a significantly higher level of social competency than the control students. The growth rate for the control students actually decreased during the course of the study. However, the parent and child self-report data did not reveal any significant difference between the treatment and control groups for social competency.
Brown and colleagues (2005) found that the prevalence rate of alcohol use increased from grades 6 through 10. Specifically, 29 percent of all students in the 6th grade had used alcohol at least once in the past 12 months, compared with 51 percent in the 10th grade. There was no significant difference between the RHC intervention group and the control group for change in alcohol use compared with nonuse. The intervention had no effect on prevalence.
However, there was a significant intervention effect evidenced for the frequency of alcohol use. The intervention was unable to prevent children from trying or from using alcohol, but it did reduce their frequency of alcohol use compared with the control condition.
There also was a general increase in prevalence for marijuana. From the 7th to the 10th grade, there was an 8 percent increase in prevalence, resulting in 31 percent of all students’ having used marijuana once in the past 12 months. There was no significant difference between the RHC intervention group and the control group for change in marijuana use compared with nonuse. The intervention had no effect on prevalence.
However, there was a significant intervention effect evidenced for the frequency of marijuana use. The intervention was not able to prevent children from trying or using marijuana, but it did reduce their frequency of marijuana use compared with the control condition.
The prevalence of cigarette use doubled, from 9 percent in the 7th grade to 18 percent in 10th grade. There also was no intervention effect displayed for prevalence or frequency of cigarette use. Students receiving the RHC intervention tried and used cigarettes at the same levels as those in the control condition.
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