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Effects of the Positive Action Program on Problem Behaviors in Elementary School Students: A Matched-Pair Randomized Control Trial in Chicago

NCJ Number
Psychology and Health Volume: 26 Issue: 2 Dated: 2011 Pages: 187-204
Kin-Kit Li; Isaac J. Washburn; David Lane DuBois; et al
Date Published
18 pages

This study examined the effects of the Positive Action (PA) program in Chicago Public Schools on problem behaviors among a cohort of elementary school students from grade three through grade five.


Using a matched-pair, randomized control design with 14 elementary schools, approximately 510 fifth-graders self-reported lifetime substance use, serious violence-related behavior, and current bullying and disruptive behaviors. Three-level (i.e., students nested within schools within school pairs) over-dispersed Poisson models were used to examine program effects on the number of items endorsed for each of the four outcomes. Findings indicated that students in the intervention endorsed 31percent fewer substance- use behaviors (incidence rate ratio [IRR] = 0.69), 37 percent fewer violence-related behaviors (IRR = 0.63) and 41 percent fewer bullying behaviors (IRR = 0.59), respectively, compared to students in the control schools. Reduction in reported disruptive behaviors was of a similar magnitude (27 percent, IRR = 0.73), but was not statistically significant. These results replicate findings of an earlier randomized trial of the PA program and extend evidence of its effectiveness to youth attending large urban school systems. (publisher abstract modified)