Early Risers: Skills for Success Program
Mission: The early elementary school years are a time of significant growth for children and a period when they need to acquire healthy development skills. During this time, it is important for children to have opportunities to learn and succeed at school, to receive recognition for their accomplishments, and to form relationships with positive people in their lives. Early Risers is a health promotion program that seeks to teach children important life skills within a consistent and supportive environment provided in the home, school, and community. When working effectively, this support network helps children make good decisions that will result in healthy and successful adjustments.
-Promote a positive attitude towards school and learning that makes children feel proud, successful, connected and committed
-Provide opportunities for success
-Build self-confidence and self-esteem
-Learn skills to make friends and to be a good friend
-Learn to express feelings, communicate effectively, and control anger and frustration
-Support parents' involvement in their child's development
Statement of the Problem: Bullying in the early elementary years is highly prevalent, and there is growing recognition that bullying is a critical antecedent of more serious mental health disorders including youth violence. Few interventions focus specifically on bullying, and those that do are typically not comprehensive, failing to address the peer relationships of the bullies or victims, relationships which are being found to have considerable influence on long-term mental health outcomes.
Purpose: This project lays the groundwork for gathering experimental evidence on the effectiveness of an adaptation of a “best practices” prevention program (Early Risers) that features a strategic peer affiliation and peer coping skills component designed to reduce aggression, bully problems, and victimization. The primary goal is to assess the feasibility, acceptability, and safety of the new program component and to gather data to estimate parameters needed in planning a full scale efficacy trial. A secondary goal is to evaluate the potential effects of the program in normalizing the developmental trajectories of the at-risk participants. An important aim of the current proposal is to systematically study the effects of the program on low-risk peer mentors.
Methods: Aggressive or withdrawn kindergarten and 1st graders (n = 60) are paired with 60 nonaggressive peer mentors as buddies. They receive 15 months of intervention, including two summer programs, an after-school program, and (for the parents of aggressive children) a family skills and support intervention. An additional 40 aggressive or withdrawn children and 40 well-adjusted children serve as no-intervention controls. A comprehensive assessment battery including child, parent, and teacher informants, direct observation, and peer sociometric instruments is completed at baseline, twice during the intervention, and twice in a follow-up year. Four dimensions of fidelity (exposure, adherence, quality of delivery, and innovation) are measured for each of five intervention components. General linear mixed modeling will be employed to analyze the data.
Implications for Prevention and Relevance for Public Health: This project will provide a greater understanding of the potential of a comprehensive approach to the prevention of youth violence and victimization, which are implicated in numerous later mental health problems.