Fifth graders who participated in a school-based social-and-emotional development program, called Positive Action, for one to four years were about half as likely to engage in substance abuse, violent behavior, or sexual activity as those who did not take part in the program, according to a study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a component of the National Institutes of Health, in Bethesda, Md.
The study, which will appear in the August issue of the American Journal of Public Health, was conducted in 20 public elementary schools in Hawaii. Schools were randomly assigned to implement Positive Action, which consists of daily 15-to-20 minute interactive lessons on topics such as getting along with others.
In 5th grade, 976 students responded to a written questionnaire that asked about their use of harmful substances, including tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs; involvement in violent behaviors, and voluntary sexual activity. The total number of students reporting that they had engaged in any of these behaviors was small, but students exposed to the Positive Action program were about half as likely to report engaging in any of these behaviors as students not exposed to the program.
“This study provides compelling evidence that intervening with young children is a promising approach to preventing drug use and other problem behaviors,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, the director of NIDA, in a statement.
A version of this article appeared in the July 15, 2009 edition of Education Week