Reports and Recommendations for Core Components

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Core components are the parts, features, attributes, or characteristics of an intervention that research shows are associated with its success. Because many aspects of a program can contribute to successful outcomes, core components can be the activities or content within a program (e.g., mindfulness instruction or anger management training), how a program is delivered (e.g., in a group, individually), who delivers a program (e.g., social workers, teachers), the program’s length and frequency, and even implementation strategies such as whether and how providers are trained and supervised. Through meta-analysis, HHS has identified with greater precision what works, in which contexts, and for which populations of young people related to two outcome domains: externalizing behavior and social competence.

  • Improving Programs for Children and Youth that Address Behavioral Problems: Recommendations for Aligning Programs with Evidence on Core Components (PDF, 37 pages) — Most young people in the U.S. are healthy, progress through school, and successfully transition to adulthood, but some children and youth have behavioral problems that can present challenges for overall well-being. Community and family factors may hinder the development of cognitive and interpersonal skills, which in turn may lead to behavioral problems in school and with peers. To address these issues, many communities and schools run programs to reduce aggression, bullying, and other disruptive behaviors, referred to in this guide as externalizing behavior. Research offers insight into which programs are more effective than others at reducing externalizing behaviors — and which core components of these programs are associated with program effectiveness. This guide takes that research and translates it into a set of recommendations intended to help practitioners make evidence-based decisions about ways to improve programs aimed at preventing or reducing externalizing behavior.
  • Developing Evidence-Based Practice Guidelines for Youth Programs: Technical Report on Effectiveness Factors for Interventions that Address Externalizing Behavior Problems (PDF, 98 pages) — This report describes a core components approach to using evidence to improve the effectiveness of youth programs. Across the many program environments that offer youth programs (e.g., community, mental health, public health, child welfare settings, schools), there is a great deal of well-controlled research available. Meta-analysis was used to uncover the characteristics of programs effective in reducing externalizing behavior problems, which will be translated into practice guidelines for those who design, support, and implement such programs.
  • Improving Social Competence Programs for Children and Youth: Recommendations for Aligning Programs with Evidence on Core Components (PDF, 29 pages) — Most young people in the U.S. are healthy, progress through school, and have successful relationships with family, peers, and teachers. However, some youth struggle to learn the skills needed for successful social interactions — they need support developing their social competence. Social competence includes a range of skills related to developing and maintaining relationships with other people, and it is related to positive long-term outcomes in academic performance, social and emotional well-being, and behavior. Because of its critical role in positive youth development, prevention programs that target social competence are available in many communities and schools. Research offers insight into which types of youth programs are more effective than others at improving social competence – and which core components of these programs are associated with program effectiveness. This guide takes that research and translates it into a set of recommendations intended to help practitioners make evidence-based decisions about ways to improve programs aimed at improving social competence.
  • Developing Evidence-based Practice Guidelines for Youth Programs: Technical Report on the Core Components of Interventions that Address Social Competence (PDF, 73 pages) — This report describes and illustrates an approach to using evidence to improve the effectiveness of youth programs, both in terms of how they are designed and how they are implemented. The approach capitalizes on the fact that across the many program environments that offer youth programs (e.g., community, mental health, public health, child welfare settings, schools), there is a great deal of well-controlled research available. There is also considerable variability in effectiveness across programs that can be reliably predicted from information reported in the research. Our goal is to better understand the sources of that variability so that we can uncover the characteristics of effective programs and share guidelines about how to make them more effective with those who design, support, and implement such programs. Findings reported here were used to inform evidence-based guidelines for improving practice, Improving Social Competence Programs for Children and Youth: Recommendations for Aligning Programs with Evidence on Core Components.