Social development program in childhood aids in positive functioning as an adult


CHICAGO Young adults who participated in a social development training program in elementary school reported greater job stability, less incidence of drug use, and greater overall emotional well being compared with a control group, according to an article in the January issue of The Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

"The transition to early adulthood is a challenging time for many young people," background information in the article states. Young adults are vulnerable to emotional and mental health problems, involvement in crime, and growing problems with drugs and alcohol. Studies have shown the effectiveness of selective interventions in children from families in poverty in encouraging positive adolescent and adult outcomes.

J. David Hawkins, Ph.D., from the Social Development Research Group, School of Social Work, University of Washington, Seattle, and colleagues examined the long-term effects of the Seattle Social Development Project (SSDP) in participants at 21 years of age. The project included teacher training, child social and emotional skill development, and parent training. The full-intervention group (n = 156) consisted of children who received an average of 4.13 years of intervention during grades one through six. The late-intervention group (n = 267) received an average of 1.65 years of intervention, during grades five and six only. The control group (n = 220) received no intervention.

Compared to the control group, students in the full-intervention group were more likely to have graduated from high school (91 percent vs. 81 percent) and to have completed two or more years of college (14 percent vs. six percent). Full-intervention students reported having stayed at their current job longer than the control group (4.96 years vs. 3.85 years), and reported significantly fewer symptoms of social phobia and fewer suicidal thoughts. The arrest rate for men in the full-intervention group was significantly lower than men in the control group (14 percent vs. 23 percent). The full-intervention group was also less likely to be involved in crime, to have sold illegal drugs in the past year, and to have an official lifetime court record.

"These results indicate that the SSDP intervention package in the elementary grades produced broad effects on positive functioning in school and at work and on emotional and mental health at 21 years of age, nine years after the intervention ended," the authors write. "These results provide further evidence that early and sustained intervention in the elementary grades can help to put children on a more positive developmental trajectory that is maintained into early adulthood."

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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