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EQUIPping High School Students. Effects of a universal prevention program on antisocial behavior

By F. Van der Velden


Aggression and delinquency among youth form a major social concern, since adolescent externalizing problem behavior is associated with immediate and lasting problems throughout life. In response, there has been a surge of research investigating preventive strategies aiming to reduce these problem behaviors among adolescents. EQUIP for Educators (EFE) is one of those prevention programs, teaching youth (grades 5-8) to think and act responsibly. The program is based on cognitive-behavioral theory and includes three main components: anger management, social skills, and social decision making. The aim of the current thesis was to provide a first evaluation of EFE implemented as a universal school-based prevention program in high school students. The first study (Chapter 2) presented a longitudinal model explaining antisocial behavior by moral cognitions, using follow-up data of 724 students. It appeared that the longitudinal relationships between self-serving cognitive distortions and antisocial behavior were only reciprocal for girls. For boys, antisocial behavior appeared only to precede self-serving cognitive distortions, which questions the adequacy of changing self-serving cognitions as the major strategy for behavioral change. Secondly, Chapter 3 investigated and established the psychometric quality of the How I Think Questionnaire (HIT-Q) in a sample representing 1534 students. In addition, it was recommended to revise the original profile form and cut off points for classification in order to use the HIT-Q as an instrument for evaluation. Chapter 4 and Chapter 5 provided evaluations of EFE on moral cognitions and behavior. The first study, using a quasi-experimental pre-test/ post-test with control group design including 622 students, indicated that a substantial part of the present sample could be labeled as ‘at-risk’, which justified implementation of EFE in this population. Furthermore, this study showed that students in the experimental group reported a more negative attitude towards antisocial behavior and a lower level of thinking errors after EFE compared to students in the control condition. In addition, effects of EFE were stronger for students with a Dutch ethnic background than for students from ethnic minority groups. These findings were supported by teacher evaluations, showing that 85 percent of the teachers evaluated the program as being successful in its attempt to positively influence students. In addition, the second evaluation study also investigated long term (nine months after intervention) effects of EFE by using Latent Growth Curve models including four measurements in a sample of 863 students. Immediate effects as found in the first evaluation study were replicated. Effects on attitude towards antisocial behavior appeared to be only temporarily, while effects on self-serving cognitive distortions remained stable over time. Although no effect for self reported prevalence of antisocial behavior was found, this evaluation did establish delayed effects (four months after intervention) on teacher reported antisocial behavior. The main conclusion is that a cognitive-behavioral based prevention program as EFE can be promising, since small effects on attitude towards antisocial behavior, self-serving cognitive distortions, and teacher reported antisocial behavior were established. Future research on EFE and adaptation of the curriculum are needed in order to increase effectiveness

Topics: Psychologie (PSYC)
Publisher: Utrecht University
Year: 2010
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