Trialling a social-emotional learning programme for teenagers

The MindOut programme is a social-emotional learning programme, developed in Ireland, and based on CASEL’s five core competencies for social-emotional learning: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship management and responsible decision-making. A new article by Katherine Dowling and colleagues in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence reports the results of a cluster-randomised controlled trial of the programme.

The study took place in 34 secondary schools in Ireland (17 intervention, 17 control) with high levels of disadvantage (at least 70% of pupils classified as educationally disadvantaged). Teachers from the intervention schools took part in a one-day training session, and then delivered the MindOut programme over 13 weekly sessions. A total of 675 pupils (ages 15-18) completed a baseline assessment, with 497 pupils remaining in the study post-intervention. A range of measures were used to evaluate the impact on social-emotional skills, mental health and well-being and academic outcomes.

Results showed that for some social and emotional skills, there were significant improvements for intervention pupils, including the use of more positive coping strategies and increased social support coping. On mental health and well-being, the intervention significantly reduced levels of stress and depressive symptoms. However, there was no effect on academic outcomes (pupils’ achievement motivation as rated by teachers, and attitudes toward school).

Source: A cluster randomized-controlled trial of the MindOut social and emotional learning program for disadvantaged post-primary school students (April 2019), Journal of Youth and Adolescence

Effects of youth mentoring programmes

Mentoring programmes that pair young people with non-parental adults are a popular strategy for early intervention with at-risk youth. To examine the extent to which these types of interventions improve outcomes for young people, Elizabeth B Raposa and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis of outcome studies of one-to-one youth mentoring programmes written in English between 1975 and 2017.

Their analysis included 70 studies with a sample size of 25,286 children and young people (average age = 12 years), and considered five broad outcome categories: school, social, health, cognitive and psychological outcomes.

The findings from their meta-analysis suggest no significant difference in effect sizes across these five types of outcomes. Overall, they found an average effect size of +0.21 across all studies and outcomes, which is consistent with past meta-analyses that have shown overall effect sizes ranging from +0.18 to +0.21.

Programmes that had a larger proportion of young males who were being mentored in the sample, a greater percentage of male mentors, or mentors who worked within the helping profession showed larger effect sizes, as did evaluations that relied on questionnaires and youth self-report.

Source: The effects of youth mentoring programs: A meta-analysis of outcome studies (January 2019), Journal of Youth and Adolescence

Link between positive teacher-student relationships and good behaviour in teens

A new study has found that having a positive relationship with a teacher when a child is 10 to 11 years old can be linked to “prosocial” behaviours such as cooperation and altruism, as well as reducing problem classroom behaviours such as aggression and oppositional behaviour.

The study used data from a major longitudinal study of Swiss children among a culturally diverse sample of 7 to 15 year olds, and involved 1,067 students randomly sampled across 56 of the city’s schools. Only students who experienced a change of teacher when the student was 9 or 10 were used for the study, with data gathered from teachers, students, and their parents on an annual and later biannual basis.

Using this data, Ingrid Obsuth and her team were able to “score” the children on over 100 different characteristics or experiences that could potentially account for good or bad behaviour. They then matched students in pairs with similar scores in all respects except for how they felt about their teacher, and how the teacher felt about them.

Students who had a more positive relationship with their teacher displayed more prosocial behaviour towards peers (on average 18%, and 10% more up to two years later), and up to 38% less aggressive behaviour (and 9% less up to four years later), over students who felt ambivalent or negative towards their teacher.

Source: A Non-bipartite Propensity Score Analysis of the Effects of Teacher–Student Relationships on Adolescent Problem and Prosocial Behavior (2016), Journal of Youth and Adolescence

Key role for schools in integrating immigrants

A new article in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence has examined the relationship between the percentage of immigrants in schools and peer violence. It found that for both immigrants and non-immigrants, high classmate support was consistently related to a lower risk of bullying victimisation and less physical fighting, regardless of immigrant school composition.

The authors used data from the 2009–2010 World Health Organization Health Behaviour in School-aged Children survey (WHO-HBSC) for a total of 51,636 adolescents from 11 countries: the UK, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, and the US.

In terms of being bullied, the analysis showed that immigrant teenagers were at a higher risk of being victimised. A higher percentage of immigrants in schools was not related to being bullied, but higher levels of school support (in particular on the individual level) were related to a lower risk of being bullied (although this was also true for non-immigrants).

The analysis also found a significant, positive relationship between immigrant school composition and bullying perpetration and physical fighting, with stronger associations for immigrants compared to non-immigrant adolescents. However, for both immigrants and non-immigrants, high classmate support was consistently related to less physical fighting regardless of immigrant school composition.
The authors conclude that schools have an important role to play in integrating immigrants into societies. They say that schools need to be aware of the relationship between immigrant school composition and peer violence, and the importance of classmate support in countering negative dynamics. They recommend using intervention programmes that relate to the existence of ethnic groups, and stress positive intergroup relations and classmate support.

Source: The Relationship Between Immigrant School Composition, Classmate Support and Involvement in Physical Fighting and Bullying among Adolescent Immigrants and Non-immigrants in 11 Countries (2016), Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

Extracurricular activity: more is not necessarily better

In this study from the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, researchers examine how the breadth of activities in which an adolescent participates relates to academic outcomes. The sample included more than 800 ethnically diverse 11th grade (Year 12 pupils). The researchers looked at the relationships between these pupils’ participation in four activity domains (academic/leadership groups, arts activities, clubs, and sports) and their sense of belonging at school, academic engagement, and academic achievement.

Results showed that adolescents who were moderately involved (ie, in two domains) reported a greater sense of belonging at school in both Year 12 and Year 13, a higher grade point average in Year 12 and greater academic engagement in Year 13, relative to those who were more or less involved.

Source: Too much of a good thing? How breadth of extracurricular participation relates to school-related affect and academic outcomes during adolescence (2011), Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 41(3)