The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

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

The Effects of Communities That Care On Community- Wide Protection

Friday, January 17, 2014: 11:00 AM
HBG Convention Center, Room 103A Street Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
BK Elizabeth Kim, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Kari M. Gloppen, MPH, Doctoral Student, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Isaac C. Rhew, PhD, Research Scientist, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
J. David Hawkins, PhD, Endowed Professor of Prevention, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Sabrina Oesterle, PhD, Research Associate Professor, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Background and Purpose: Social Work practitioners and scholars have emphasized the importance of addressing problem behaviors through increasing strengths in addition to reducing risks. Exploring the degree to which community interventions influence protective factors as a mechanism to enhance positive youth development is an important research task. The Communities That Care (CTC) prevention system is rooted in the social developmental model which highlights the importance of providing youth with opportunities, skills, and recognition for prosocial involvement in order to build prosocial bonding that motivates prosocial behaviors.  CTC has been shown to reduce levels of risk factors as well as tobacco use, alcohol use, and delinquency. However, no study to date has examined potential effects of CTC on protective factors. The present study asks (1) whether CTC can increase overall levels of protection among community youth; (2) whether protection is affected in specific domains (peer-individual, family, school, community); and (3) what, if any, specific protective factors were significantly affected by CTC.

Methods: Data are from the Community Youth Development Study (CYDS), a community-randomized controlled trial of the CTC prevention system in twenty-four communities across seven states. As part of this study, a longitudinal panel of 4,407 students was assessed annually starting in grade 5. The present analyses examined data up to 8th grade, during the period when training and technical assistance were provided to CTC communities. Fifteen protective factors, specified in the social development model, were assessed using scales consisting of 2 to 6 items.  Using three level hierarchical linear modeling, we examined differences in levels of protective factors among 8th graders in CTC compared to control communities adjusting for 5th grade levels of the protective factors and other individual- and community-level characteristics. Global test statistics (GTS) were used to examine the effect of CTC in overall levels of protection community-wide as well as the levels of protection in each domain.

Results:  8th graders in the panel from CTC communities had higher overall levels of protection compared to those from control communities (GTS t = 2.481, p = 0.021) after controlling for baseline levels and individual and community characteristics.  When examining protection by domain, levels were significantly higher among CTC youth in the peer-individual (GTS t = 2.329, p = 0.029), school (GTS t = 2.234, p = 0.018), and community (GTS t = 2.328, p = 0.029) domains. Analyses of specific protective factors found that youths in the panel from CTC communities reported significantly higher levels of social skills (p = 0.025), interaction with prosocial peers (p = 0.050), recognition from school for prosocial involvement (p = 0.025), and opportunities for prosocial involvement in the community (p = 0.004).

Conclusion: This study found that the CTC prevention system can have a community-wide impact on levels of protective factors among adolescents. This lays the groundwork for further exploring the mechanisms through which CTC may affect positive youth development. The findings support the suggestion that prevention efforts can effectively focus both on reducing risk and enhancing protection in communities.