This study used five waves of data in assessing the impact of Positive Action (PA), a school program intended to improve adolescent students' mental health and perceptions of school climate 1 year after completion of the program in a sample of low-income, rural youth.
PA is a universal delinquency prevention program that targets risk and protective factors across an adolescent's ecology at the individual, school, family, and community levels. It is a school-based program for pre-kindergarten, elementary, middle, and high school students that intends to decrease risk factors (e.g., substance use, violence, truancy, and family conflict) and increase protective factors (e.g., academic achievement, school attendance, parent-child bonding, and family cohesion). PA was selected for evaluation because it focuses on changing school climate by strengthening positive interactions among students, between students and teachers, and within the general school environment. The evaluation focused on the following student mental health factors: self-esteem, internalizing symptoms (anxiety, depression), and aggressive behavior. In addition, school environmental factors were examined, such as negative interpersonal interaction at school and an adverse school climate. PA consists of a series of developmentally and age-related kits of lesson plans and materials for pre-kindergarten through grade 12 students. The current study focused on the middle school PA curriculum, because it has prior evidence and the elementary and high school versions have not been extensively researched. Following multiple imputation and propensity score analysis, the study conducted four hierarchal linear models to examine program effects. The study found that PA program participants reported significant increases in self-esteem and significant decreases in school hassles compared to youths who did not participate in PA. Participation in PA did not have a significant impact on internalizing symptoms or aggression. Some protective factors modestly bolstered adolescent functioning. 4 tables, 1 figure, and 100 references