Preventing Problem Behaviors in Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults: Efficacy of School, Family, and Community Interventions
Historically, prevention programs to help young people avoid the pitfalls associated with antisocial and negative behaviors have been implemented in school, family, and community settings. Early prevention efforts dating to the 1960s produced relatively few positive results. However, significant strides have been made in preventing child and adolescent problem behavior in the past several decades. A public health framework based on targeting known risk and protective factors for childhood problems has emerged as a model to guide the design, implementation, and evaluation of prevention programs in schools, families, and communities (O’Connell, Boat, & Warner, 2009). Equally important, effective interventions that strive to reduce risk, enhance protection, and improve positive outcomes among children, youth, and young adults have been systematically identified. Many of these interventions have also been shown to be cost-effective when compared to costly treatment and control approaches (Aos et al., 2011). Finally, interest in prevention policy has increased at the federal level, illustrated by the recent release of a national prevention strategy aimed at improving citizens’ health and wellness (U.S. Surgeon General, 2011).
A reinvigorated interest in preventing child and adolescent problem behaviors represents a significant step forward in supporting young people and their parents. Social work practitioners, policy experts, and child advocates have recently placed greater emphasis on developing, implementing, and testing social programs and interventions aimed at preventing child, adolescent, and young adult problem behaviors like substance abuse, delinquency, violence, and school dropout. In this symposium, authors trace the evolution and current status of preventive interventions in school, family, and community settings. Findings from systematic reviews of the empirical evidence pertaining to the efficacy of school, family, and community prevention programs are presented. Implementation and methodological lessons gained from these systematic reviews and from randomized prevention trials conducted by each of the symposium authors are presented and discussed. Implications for advancing prevention practice, policy, and research are delineated.