The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

A School-Based Randomized Controlled Trial: Practice-Based Evidence and the XY-Zone

Saturday, January 18, 2014: 9:00 AM
HBG Convention Center, Room 003B River Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Katherine L. Montgomery, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow, Washington University in Saint Louis, St. Louis, MO
Purpose: Preventing delinquency is critical, because severe consequences exist for victims, offenders, and the public in general. Researchers have found that the most efficacious way to prevent delinquency is through school-based interventions targeting risk and protective factors. Most research, however, has been primarily deficit-based and focused on risk factors. In addition, criticisms exist regarding the use of evidence-based treatments with this population, as issues regarding implementation, dissemination, and sustainability have been highlighted. Lastly, researchers have asserted that pathways to delinquency vary by gender, and interventions should be gender-specific. Therefore the purpose of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of a school-based intervention (developed by school social workers in the practice setting) for male youth: the XY-Zone. Specifically, it is hypothesized that the XY-Zone will increase protective factors among students at-risk for delinquency.

Method: Using purposive sampling, XY-Zone eligible students from 10 high schools in an urban area were recruited for participation in this pilot randomized controlled trial. To be eligible for the XY-Zone, students had to be “at-risk.” The agency defined “at-risk” through four risk domains: 1) academic (e.g., failed classes or state examinations), 2) attendance (e.g., excessive absences and tardies), 3) behavioral (e.g., gang involvement, poor classroom conduct), and 4) social service (e.g., free/reduced lunch, CPS involvement). The waitlisted control condition received Communities in Schools services (e.g., group or individual treatment, mentoring), and those randomized into the XY-Zone received 12 weeks of XY-Zone treatment. Data on self-control (a=.87), self-efficacy (a=.88), family involvement (a=.80), school engagement (a=.88), and career development (a=.88) was collected at baseline, mid-way, and post-intervention. Baseline differences were calculated using Fisher’s exact and independent samples t-tests. Two-way ANOVA with repeated measures was used to determine the effectiveness of the XY-Zone on outcome variables.  

Results:  The final sample (n=61) was primarily Hispanic (54%) or Black (34%), and most were freshmen (51%) or sophomore (36%) students. Differences between control (n=25) and treatment (n=36) groups for primary outcomes were not significant at baseline. Most (75%) had risk factors in more than one domain, with 24.6% in one, 44.3% in two, 26.2% in three, and 4.9% had risks in all four. Treatment group students attended most (70%) groups and service providers addressed most (93%) of the manualized treatment objectives. Relative to the control group, treatment group participants reported increases in self-efficacy, self-control, family involvement, and career development.  Effect sizes were in the small to medium range (η2=0.02 to 0.06). 

Conclusions: This study is one of the first to examine a gender-specific, school-based intervention focused on protective factors among youth at-risk for delinquency. An example of researcher/practitioner collaboration is offered. Although results are promising, additional research with larger samples is needed to determine effectiveness. As the field of school-based social work and prevention continues to move forward, it is important that researchers build on what is known to investigate relevant interventions, such as the XY-Zone, explore opportunities associated with practice-based evidence, and investigate the impact of existing and potentially new protective factors on youth at-risk of delinquency.