Penn Resiliency Program: A Promising Universal Intervention to Prevent Depression
The Penn Resiliency Program (PRP) strives to prevent depression by teaching middle school students to think flexibly and accurately about the challenges and problems they confront. Students learn, for example, about the links among beliefs, feelings, and behaviors and how to challenge negative thinking by evaluating the accuracy of beliefs and generating alternative interpretations. The original evaluation of the program (Gillham, Reivich, et al., 1995) found that it halved the rate of moderate to severe symptoms among youths in a predominantly middle-income white sample. Another study (Jaycox, Reivich, et al., 1994) found that depressive symptoms were significantly reduced and classroom behavior was significantly improved in the treatment group compared with controls at posttest and six-month follow-up. The reduction in symptoms was most pronounced in the students who were most at risk. Positive results of PRP in preventing depressive symptoms have likewise been reported by Cutuli, Chaplin, and colleagues (2006) and Gillham, Hamilton, and colleagues (2006). The program has also been found to reduce anxiety (Roberts, Kane, et al., 2004). Similarly, students in a program patterned after PRP—the Penn Optimism Program—experienced decreased depressive symptoms relative to controls (Yu and Seligman, 2002).
On the other hand, a study of a culturally tailored version of PRP with low-income minority middle school students had mixed results. The program had beneficial immediate and long-term effects on depressive symptoms for Latino children, but no clear effects for African American children (Cardemil, Reivich, and Seligman, 2002). Pattison and Lynd-Stevenson (2001) and Roberts, Reivich, and colleagues (2004) failed to replicate the findings reported by Gillham and colleagues (1995). These authors also found that a similar intervention—the Penn Prevention Program—showed no evidence of reducing depressive symptoms in youths, although Roberts, Kane, and colleagues (2004) noted that the intervention group reported less anxiety.
Third, programs that emphasize norms for and a social commitment to not using drugs are superior to those without this emphasis. Fourth, adding community components to school-based programs appears to add to their effectiveness (see also Biglan, Ary, et al., 2000). Fifth, use of peer leaders may enhance short-term effectiveness (see also Gottfredson and Wilson, 2003). Sixth, adding training in life skills to that in social resistance skills may increase program effectiveness (see also Faggiano, Vigna-Taglianti, et al., 2005).
A meta-analysis to assess potential moderators of program effectiveness by Gottfredson and Wilson (2003) determined that programs that can be delivered primarily by peer leaders have increased effectiveness. An analysis by Faggiano, Vigna-Taglianti, et al. (2005) found that the most effective