Preventing negative behaviors among elementary-school students through enhancing students' social-emotional and character development

Frank J. Snyder, Alan C. Acock, Samuel Vuchinich, Michael W. Beets, Isaac J. Washburn, Brian R. Flay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations

Abstract

Purpose: Examine the effects of a comprehensive, school-wide social-emotional and character development program using a positive youth development perspective. Specifically, we examined a mediation mechanism whereby positive academic-related behaviors mediated the intervention effects on substance use, violence, and sexual activity. Design: Matched-pair, cluster-randomized, controlled design. Setting: Twenty (10 intervention and 10 control) racially/ethnically diverse schools in Hawaii. Subjects: Elementary-aged students (N= 1784) from grade 5. Intervention: The Positive Action program. Measures: Students self-reported their academic behaviors, together with their substance use, violence, and voluntary sexual activity; teachers rated students' academic behaviors, substance use, and violence. Analysis: Structural equation modeling. Results: Students attending intervention schools reported significantly better academic behavior (B =.273, SE=.039, p <.001) and significantly less substance use (B = -.970, SE=.292, p <.01, incidence-rate ratio [IRR]=.379), violence (B =-1.410, SE=.296, p <.001, IRR=.244), and sexual activity (B=-2.415, SE=.608, p <.001, odds ratio=.089); boys reported more negative behaviors than girls. Intervention effects on student-reported substance use, violence, and sexual activity were mediated by positive academic behavior. Teacher reports corroborated these results, with rated academic behavior partially mediating the effects of the intervention on rated negative behaviors. Conclusion: This study (1) provides evidence that adds insight into one mechanism through which a social-emotional and character development program affects negative outcomes and (2) supports socialemotional and character development and positive youth development perspectives that posit that focusing on youths' assets may reduce negative behaviors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-58
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Health Promotion
Volume28
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2013

Keywords

  • Mediation
  • Positive youth development
  • Prevention research
  • Randomized trial
  • School-based prevention
  • Social-emotional and character development

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