Frequently Asked Questions
The recommendations are tied to research evidence on effective programs for a particular target outcome. This means that the recommendations related to one outcome may not be the same for another. You will find the most relevant recommendations by first selecting the target outcome, issue, or problem you are most concerned about addressing.
Externalizing behaviors are maladaptive behaviors directed toward others or one’s environment. Examples include fighting, threatening others, bullying, disruptiveness, breaking rules at school or at home, and temper tantrums.
Social competence refers to the social skills and social adjustment necessary to successfully navigate interpersonal relationships and one’s social environment. Examples include cooperation, assertive communication, helping others, social awareness, peer acceptance, adaptability, and a sense of belonging.
Self-regulation is an individual’s ability to manage her/his emotions and behavior in accordance with the needs of the situation. Examples include the ability to calm oneself when upset, to pay attention and persist on a task, control impulses, “switch gears” in response to changing demands, and engage in planning prioritizing, and juggling multiple tasks toward a goal.
After selecting a target outcome, decide which intervention family best represents your program. This is necessary because the recommendations are tied to the evidence on programs that used particular intervention approaches. Recommendations for one intervention family may not be applicable for another. Our evidence-based recommendations are divided into five mutually exclusive intervention families: Relational, Skill-Building, Academic-Educational, Behavior Management and Family Relations and Parenting Skills. The figure below defines each intervention family and lists examples of the types of interventions included in each.
Reflecting on how your program works can help you choose which intervention family fits best:
First, “unpack” your program into its key service(s) or intervention(s). This means identifying the primary service or services that all or almost all of your participants receive, the main services or activities that make up most of your program, and the predominant strategies aimed at improving the outcome.
Second, classify the service(s) or intervention(s) into an intervention family. Using the definitions of the intervention families, determine which family (relational, skill-building, academic-educational, behavior management, or family relations and parenting skills) best describes the primary service(s) or intervention(s) of your program. You will find intervention examples listed under the intervention families that may be similar to yours, which you can use to help guide your decision. These are examples of real interventions taken from the evidence base but are not intended to be an exhaustive list.
Tip: Use a “Logic Model” to Unpack Your Program
Creating a visual depiction of what your program is aiming to achieve and how (sometimes called a program “logic model”) is one way to identify the different features of your program and how each feature is supposed to produce the desired outcome. An exercise like this can be helpful for unpacking your program in order to choose which intervention family or families best fit your program, and for deciding whether certain recommendations apply to your program.
Youth-serving organizations may offer a variety of distinct services or interventions for children and youth. Some organizations may offer a single intervention for their participants, while others may weave together multiple types of interventions into a cohesive program. To find the recommendations derived from evidence on programs similar to yours, the key is to identify the predominant interventions you use, whether there is one or a combination of several.
The figure below shows how to choose an intervention family using two example programs. Program A provides individual counseling to youth at school during the week. To find the relevant intervention family, the program director has a single intervention to consider – individual counseling. The program director would look in the Relational intervention family for guidance on ways to align her program with the evidence.
Another example program (Program B) contains three interventions provided in an integrated way to youth participating in a comprehensive afterschool program. This program director “unpacked” the program into three distinct interventions – a social problem-solving skills group, individual counseling, and tutoring and enrichment services. The program director would look to the Skill-Building intervention family for recommendations on his social problem-solving skills program, the Relational intervention family for recommendations on the individual counseling program, and the Academic-Educational intervention family for recommendations on the tutoring portion of the program.
- Intervention Family: a broad category of interventions that share the same underlying strategy or principles for how to improve the target outcome.
- Program: a consistent implementation of one or more interventions with shared practices, policies, leadership, and (usually) funding.
- Intervention: a distinct activity or service provided as part of a program, designed to achieve a specific purpose for specific participants.
- Core Components: the parts, features, attributes, or characteristics of an intervention that research shows are associated with its success.
The evidence for our recommendations comes from a large meta-analytic database that includes the results of hundreds of randomized and quasi-experimental studies of youth programs of relatively high quality. Our recommendations are developed from research on selected (i.e., strategies targeted toward at-risk subpopulations) or indicated (i.e., strategies for individuals considered to be at risk of problems) prevention programs in which the children or youth are at risk for or are already experiencing behavioral, academic, or family difficulties associated with externalizing behavior, self-regulation, or social challenges. Our recommendations have not been tested with universal programs or with residential programs and, as such, may not apply in those settings.
The recommendations offered for each intervention family should be viewed as a “menu” of options from which to choose based on your local circumstances. In general, when deciding which recommendations to implement, think about balancing them with:
- Applicability to your context
- Applicability to the children, youth, and families you serve
- Ease or feasibility of implementation
Each recommendation begins with a description of the ideas that underlie it, as well as evidence from our analysis to support the recommendation. Each recommendation has a set of “Assess Feasibility” steps designed to help practitioners consider the alignment of their programs with the recommendation and how they might improve alignment given their circumstances. A set of “Take Action” suggestions offers specific ideas for how the recommendation could be incorporated into existing programs.
Effective intervention components are the core components strongly related to improvements in the target outcome and are specific to an intervention family. To have the best chance at improving youth outcomes, an effective intervention component should only be implemented in the context of an intervention that uses the underlying strategy of the intervention family to which the component is linked. We do not know if implementing an effective component with an intervention from a different intervention family would be as effective.
Our analysis also found that interventions with certain core components tended to have smaller, though still positive, impacts on target outcomes; we label these components “resource considerations.” In the practice recommendations, resource considerations are meant to inform decisions about what services to prioritize when resources are scarce. Importantly, these components are not ineffective or harmful; rather, they did not contribute as much to improvements on the target outcome as other components in the context of a particular intervention family.
Effective implementation components refer to the supports that may be necessary to implement a program well. Our analysis found that certain implementation components were associated with improved outcomes across all of the intervention families. Therefore, the practice recommendations for these components are designed to be broadly applicable across interventions and service environments. However, please note that they are specific to the target outcome.