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

American journal of health promotion : AJHP

PubMedID: 23470183

Snyder FJ, Acock AC, Vuchinich S, Beets MW, Washburn IJ, Flay BR. Preventing negative behaviors among elementary-school students through enhancing students' social-emotional and character development. Am J Health Promot. 2013;28(1):50-8.
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 social-emotional and character development and positive youth development perspectives that posit that focusing on youths' assets may reduce negative behaviors.