This study examined a highly successful, well-documented, national program to prevent teenage pregnancy and school failure—the Teen Outreach program—to address a fundamental question: How well can a developmentally focused, broadly targeted prevention program address the needs of those students within the program who are at the highest risk of problematic behavior. The hypothesis that the developmental focus of a broadly targeted intervention would lead it to have greater program efficacy among those young people who began the program at greatest risk was examined with multisite data collected on more than 3,300 Teen Outreach and comparison group students. Results confirmed prior findings regarding the overall efficacy of the Teen Outreach program, and indicated that the program appeared most effective for those students at greatest initial risk of the problem behaviors being targeted. Implications for the targeting of the Teen Outreach program specifically and of similar primary prevention programs more generally are discussed.
A model of problematic adolescent behavior that expands current theories of social skill deficits in delinquent behavior to consider both social skills and orientation toward the use of adaptive skills was examined in an ethnically and socioeconomically diverse sample of 113 male and female adolescents. Adolescents were selected on the basis of moderate to serious risk for difficulties in social adaptation in order to focus on the population of youth most likely to be targeted by prevention efforts. Structural equation modeling was used to examine cross-sectional data using multiple informants (adolescents, peers, and parents) and multiple methods (performance test and self-report). Adolescent social orientation, as reflected in perceived problem solving effectiveness, identification with adult prosocial values, and self-efficacy expectations, exhibited a direct association to delinquent behavior and an indirect association to drug involvement mediated by demonstrated success in using problem solving skills. Results suggest that the utility of social skill theories of adolescent problem behaviors for informing preventive and remedial interventions can be enhanced by expanding them to consider adolescents’ orientation toward using the skills they may already possess.
This study examined the moderating effect of risk on the relation between autonomy processes and family and adolescent functioning. The present sample comprised 131 adolescents from either a lowrisk or high-risk social context, their mothers, and their peers. Observational ratings of autonomy processes within the mother-adolescent dyad were obtained, along with adolescent reports of the quality of the mother-adolescent relationship, and both adolescent and peer reports of the adolescent’s functioning. Consistent with past research, in low-risk families, behavior undermining autonomy was negatively related to relationship quality, and adolescents’ expressions of autonomy were linked with positive indices of social functioning. In high-risk families, however, undermining of autonomy was positively linked with mother-adolescent relationship quality, and adolescents’ expressions of autonomy were linked with negative indices of social functioning. Results are interpreted as demonstrating the ways in which the developmental task of attaining autonomy in adolescence is systematically altered depending on the level of risk and challenge in the adolescent’s social context.