The authors of this study examine the outcomes and effectiveness of the life-skills training curriculum, called Skills for Adolescence, compared with the standard care in preventing and delaying substance use through middle school.
Thirty-four schools (n=7426 consented sixth graders, 71 percent of the eligible population) were randomized to conditions to test the hypothesis that Skills for Adolescence (SFA), a widely used comprehensive life-skills training curriculum with a dedicated drug education unit, is more effective than standard care in deterring and delaying substance use through middle school. Data were collected two years post-test from 5691 eighth graders. Lifetime and recent (i.e., last 30 days) use of five substances or combinations of substances was compared using mixed-model regression to control for school clustering. There were two significant treatment main effects at the end of the eighth grade: lifetime and recent marijuana use were lower in SFA than control schools with pretest usage and salient demographic and psychosocial variables controlled. There was also one significant Treatment and Pretest Usage interaction around binge drinking. Baseline binge drinkers in SFA schools were less likely to report recent binge drinking than students in control schools; there were no treatment differences among baseline non-binge drinkers. Analyses of potential mediators of SFA treatment effects on eighth-grade binge drinking and marijuana use suggested that SFA increased self-efficacy around drug refusal skills, but did not affect behavioral intentions, perceptions of harm, or perceived peer norms. These two-year outcomes offer some additional support for SFA effectiveness and the general thrust of school-based, life skills-based prevention programs. The promising sixth- through eighth-grade findings for SFA, a commercially available program, provide a further step in bridging a major gap in the “research to practice” literature: theory-based interventions that have documented behavioral effects have not enjoyed large-scale implementation, while intuition-based programs that have no documented effects still enjoy wide exposure. Publisher abstract Provided