. "7 Prevention of Specific Disorders and Promotion of Mental Health." Preventing Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Disorders Among Young People: Progress and Possibilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2009.
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Preventing Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Disorders Among Young People: Progress and Possibilities
randomized first or second grade students to the Raising Healthy Children intervention or a no-intervention group. At 18-month follow-up, program participants had higher teacher-rated academic performance and commitment to school, lower antisocial behavior, and higher social competency. Participants also showed less increase in the use of alcohol and marijuana in their middle school years (Brown, Catalano, et al., 2005).
Similarly, in a meta-analytic review of 237 school-based mental health promotion programs, Durlak, Weissberg, and colleagues (2007) reported improvements in aspects of positive development (e.g., social-emotional skills, prosocial norms, school bonding, positive social behavior), as well as reductions in problem outcomes (e.g., aggressive behavior, internalizing symptoms, substance use). Kraag, Zeegers, and colleagues (2006) reviewed 19 trials of school-based programs that teach coping skills or stress management through relaxation training, social problem solving, or social adjustment and emotional self-control. Although there was significant heterogeneity in methodological quality, they found large pooled effect sizes for both enhanced coping skills and reduced stress symptoms.
A recent evaluation by the RAND Corporation of a widely implemented after-school program, Spirituality for Kids, demonstrated a causal link between spiritual development and resilience. In a randomized trial involving 19 program sites, the program showed medium to large effects on positive behaviors, such as adaptability and communication, and small to medium effects on behavioral problems, such as attention problems, hyperactivity, and withdrawal (Maestas and Gaillot, 2008).
Embry (2004) has suggested that the dissemination of a set of simple behavior-influence procedures, or “kernels,” would be helpful for parents, teachers, health care providers, and youth workers in fostering positive development among children and adolescents. Examples include praise notes (Gupta, Stringer, and Meakin, 1990; Hutton, 1983; Kelley, Carper, et al., 1988; McCain and Kelley, 1993), peer-to-peer tutoring (Greenwood, 1991a, 1991b), the Beat the Timer game (Adams and Drabman, 1995), and some of the skills that are used in parent–child interaction therapy (Eyberg, Funderburk, et al., 2001) and other caregiver training approaches. Others have similarly called for the study of core components of programs to facilitate their implementation in schools and other community settings (e.g., Greenberg, Feinberg, et al., 2007). Discerning generic principles that are common to diverse interventions could foster their broader use.
Illustratively, because they achieve their preventive effects through promotion of family and child competencies, several programs discussed earlier in this report, including the Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies (PATHS) curriculum (see Box 6-7), Fast Track (see Box 6-9), and Life Skills Training (see Box 7-4), as well as the Big Brothers Big Sisters Program (see Box 7-6) are frequently cited as successful promotion and prevention