Long-term effects of social development intervention

Rick Kosterman, Kevin Haggerty, and J. David Hawkins explain how a social development program implemented during the elementary grades can positively affect adult functioning 15 years later  

CAN EARLY INTERVENTION targeting the social development of elementary school children increase positive functioning and decrease problem behaviors producing lasting effects into adulthood? We examined this question in a study that began in the 1980s in 18 public schools serving diverse, high-crime neighborhoods in Seattle, Washington. At the time, there was little evidence that mental, emotional, or behavioral problems could be prevented. Yet, we were intrigued with the potential for public schools to improve the social development of children. Here we summarize findings reported in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine on the lasting effects of a social development program after participants had reached ages 24 and 27 (12 and 15 years after the program ended).

What we know
● Research showed that a social development program implemented during the elementary grades had positive, long-lasting effects into young adulthood.
● Intervention throughout elementary school was important for significant effects.
● Effects were broad, including higher levels of educational and economic attainment, less mental health disorder, and less sexually transmitted infection.
● This social development program is a cost-effective public investment.

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February 2010