Psychosocial Prevention Education: A Comparison of Traditional vs. Thematic Prevention Programming for Youth

Rebecca A. Newgent, Kristin K. Higgins, Stephanie E. Belk, Bonni A. Nickens Behrend, Kelly A. Dunbar

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Abstract: Group work can be an effective means of counseling at-risks students. Group counseling allows students to develop connections while at the same time explore factors that may affect their achievement. This study aimed to compare the effectiveness of two selective intervention programs on measures of social skills, problem behaviors, teacher- and self-reports of peer relationships (bullying behaviors and peer victimization), self-esteem (self-worth, ability, self-satisfaction, and self-respect) and perception of self. Further, this study aimed to assess the impact of each of the intervention programs. While both the PEGS and the ARK Programs cover the same underlying psychosocial educational content, the primary difference is that the PEGS Program consists of traditional psychosocial education units while the ARK Program units are targeted toward peer victimization (i.e., bullying). The following research questions were tested: Is there a differential impact when comparing the PEGS Program to the ARK Program? Do the PEGS and ARK Programs have a positive impact on social skills, problem behaviors, peer relationships, and self-esteem?

Findings indicated that there were no significant differences between the pre-test assessment measures when comparing the PEGS and ARK Program participants. Further, there were no significant differences between the post-test assessment measures when comparing the two programs’ participants, with the exception of teacher-reported peer victimization.

Findings indicated that there was significant improvement on self-reported problem behaviors and peer victimization when comparing the pre- and post-test assessments for the PEGS Program participants. While not significant, improvement also was found for teacher-reported problem behaviors and bully behaviors and self-reported social skills, bully behaviors, and self-esteem. Findings also indicated that there was significant improvement on teacher-reported bully behavior and on self-reported social skills and bully behaviors for the ARK Program.

Finding effective programming that can positively impact at-risk students can be difficult. Further complicating the issue is the onslaught of thematic programming targeting specific groups of at-risk students. While targeted programming can be beneficial to a select group of students, it may exclude other students who can benefit but may not have the same “label.” This study showed that the more traditional PEGS group was equally effective when compared to the more thematic ARK group.

Rebecca A. Newgent, Kristin K. Higgins, Stephanie E. Belk, Bonni A. Nickens Behrend, Kelly A. Dunbar