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28-09-2015 | Empirical Research | Uitgave 12/2015

Journal of Youth and Adolescence 12/2015

A Longitudinal Evaluation of the Positive Action Program in a Low-Income, Racially Diverse, Rural County: Effects on Self-Esteem, School Hassles, Aggression, and Internalizing Symptoms

Journal of Youth and Adolescence > Uitgave 12/2015
Shenyang Guo, Qi Wu, Paul R. Smokowski, Martica Bacallao, Caroline B. R. Evans, Katie L. Cotter


Positive Action is a school-based program that aims to decrease problem behaviors (e.g., violence, substance use) and increase positive behaviors (e.g., school engagement, academic achievement). Although a number of studies have shown that Positive Action successfully achieves these goals, few studies have evaluated the program’s effectiveness in rural schools. Given that rural youth are at an increased risk for risky behaviors (e.g., violence, substance use), this is a critical gap in the existing Positive Action research base. The current study assesses the impact of Positive Action on change rates of self-esteem, school hassles, aggression, and internalizing symptoms in a group (N = 1246, 52 % female) of ethnically/racially diverse (27 % White, 23 % African American, 12 % mixed race/other, 8 % Latino, 30 % as American Indian) middle school youth (age range 9–20) located in two violent, low-income rural counties in North Carolina. One county engaged in Positive Action over the 3-year study window while the other county did not. Following multiple imputation and propensity score analysis, 4 two-level hierarchical linear models were run using each of the outcome measures as dependent variables. The results indicate that the program generates statistically significant beneficial effects for youth from the intervention county on self-esteem scores and school hassles scores. Although the program generates beneficial effects for intervention youth on the change in aggression scores, the finding is not statistically significant. The finding on the change in internalizing scores shows a non-significant detrimental effect: the youth from the comparison county have lower internalizing scores than those from the intervention county. Implications are discussed.

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