Program Goals/Program Theory
Tribes is an intensive universal prevention strategy administered in elementary classrooms that is designed to reduce aggressive and violent behavior, reduce risk factors for the development of violent behavior later in life, and increase protective factors that enhance resiliency. This universal prevention strategy is based on the idea that intervention programs should build resiliency—not merely reduce risk factors—and should use the classroom environment as an agent of change.
The target population for Tribes is elementary school children, specifically children in first through fourth grades.
Tribes is designed to be administered to an entire classroom through the entire academic year; it is integrated into the class curriculum. The key features of the program are to organize children into smaller learning groups called “tribes” and to develop a nurturing classroom climate that includes respect for others, teamwork, building relationships, and individual accountability.
Students and teachers agree to honor four critical agreements while in class:
- Listen attentively to one another.
- Show appreciation for one another.
- Show mutual respect.
- Agree that students have the right to not participate in Tribes-related activities if they choose not to.
In addition, children are taught to set goals, define expectations for themselves and their learning group (i.e., their tribe), and reflect on what was learned and how it was learned. There are 12 collaborative skills that students learn to work effectively together.
The Tribes program is not curriculum based; rather, it is constructed and implemented as a way to organize classrooms and teach children. Teachers receive 3 days of training, as well as onsite support, to learn how to restructure their classrooms and aid in the implementation of the Tribes program.
Additional Information: Negative Program Effects
An outcome evaluation (described in Evaluation Methodology and Outcomes) found that the program in general had no effects on children’s behavior when boys and girls were assessed as a group, but when girls were considered separately, the program had significant negative effects on girls’ behavior and academic performance.
6 to 10
Although Hanson and colleagues (2011) detected some significant findings, the preponderance of evidence suggests that the Tribes program had no effect on reducing aggressive and antisocial behavior and made a detrimental impact on girls’ academic performance.
Aggressive/Rule Breaking Behavior
The results on the impact of the Tribes program are mixed when examining aggressive behavior. In the overall sample and according to both parent and teacher reports, there were no significant differences for aggressive or rule-breaking behavior, social problems, or attention problems—immediately postintervention and 6 months postintervention—between children receiving Tribes and control group youths.
Gender subanalysis suggests that the program had differential effects for boys and girls. There appear to have been more beneficial impacts for boys and more detrimental impacts for girls. However, reports on male behavior differed depending on the source for the first and second grade sample. According to teachers, boys receiving the Tribes program displayed more statistically significant increases in aggressive and rule-breaking behavior than boys in the control group. Yet, parent-reported rule-breaking behavior shows a statistically significant decrease for boys receiving the Tribes program, compared with boys in the control group. For the other sample, children in third and fourth grades, Tribes appears to be beneficial for males. According to teachers, boys receiving the Tribes program demonstrated significantly lower levels of aggressive and rule-breaking behavior, as well as fewer social and attention problems.
Girls participating in Tribes displayed higher scores in parent-reported measures of emotional and behavioral strengths, compared with girls in the control group. Additionally, for both boys and girls there is no evidence that any programmatic effects were sustained or emerged at the 6-month follow-up.
The other significant impacts detected for girls receiving the Tribes program were detrimental. For girls in both samples, grades 1 through 4, those participating in the Tribes program exhibited statistically significant lower test scores in English and mathematics, compared with girls in the control group. The researchers are not sure why the Tribes program would be associated with marked declines in academic performance and only for girls.
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