Positive Youth Development in the United States: Research Findings on Evaluations of Positive Youth Development Programs. Social


The benefits of social competence promotion programs were described by Caplan, et al., (1992:56):

Kornberg & Caplan (1980), who reviewed 650 papers on biopsychosocial risk factors and preventive interventions, concluded that competence training to promote adaptive behavior and mental health is one of the most significant developments in recent primary prevention research. In general, social competence promotion programs were designed to enhance personal and interpersonal effectiveness, and to prevent the development of maladaptive behavior through (a) teaching students developmentally appropriate skills and information, (b) fostering prosocial and health-enhancing values and beliefs, and (c) creating environmental supports to reinforce the real-life application of skills (Weissberg, Caplan & Sivo, 1989). Some researchers hypothesized that teaching students a general set of competencies that can be broadly applied to cope with diverse stressors is sufficient to prevent specific problem behaviors (e.g., Spivack & Shure, 1982). Recent research, however, indicates that skills are not automatically and consistently applied to every social task encountered (Caplan, Bennetto & Weissberg, 1991; Dodge, Pettit, McClaskey & Brown, 1986). To produce meaningful effects on specific target behaviors, it also appears necessary to include opportunities in SCP programs for students to practice and apply learned skills to specific, relevant social tasks (Hawkins & Weis, 1985). The combination of general social skills training with domain-specific instruction may be the most effective way to prevent particular psychosocial problems (Durlak, 1980).

Operational Definition.  Programs were classified as promoting social competence if they provided training in developmentally appropriate interpersonal skills, and rehearsal strategies for practicing these skills. These skills included communication, assertiveness, refusal and resistance, conflict-resolution, and interpersonal negotiation strategies for use with peers and adults.