Keeping a Focus on Self-Regulation and Competence: "Find Your Own Style", a School Based Program Targeting at Risk Adolescents

Article excerpt

Abstract

School is a privileged setting for universal and selective prevention interventions that can help pupils increase their competence to cope with life challenges in a moderate, non violent and effective way. The aim of the present study is to evaluate the effects of an intervention, a social and personal competence promotion program entitled "Find your own style" (SPCPP- FYOS) that was designed by the authors and tailored to the institutional context. FYOS took place within the regular school timetable and was delivered by the regular school teacher. Besides the evaluation sessions prior and after the intervention, the program included 12 sessions where 6 themes were debated, role-played, monitored and generalized through homework. Activities focused on interpersonal communication; self-talk; emotion management and regulation, social capital and interpersonal relationships and management of leisure and work time. Active and participative methods were used. A total of 77 adolescents were included in the program, distributed as follows: 47 from 6th and 7th grades and 30 from the 8th grade. The intervention design included an evaluation prior and after the intervention, and a parallel "attention group". This study confirmed that universal prevention programs (like the "attention program" targeting at the whole educational community) are efficient in increasing the perception of happiness and the perception of quality of life in adolescents. However, they are not sufficient in targeting more specific results such as the decrease of disruption, where a more specific and intensive intervention would be necessary.

Keywords: competence, participation, self-regulation, autonomy, empowerment

Introduction

For most of their day adolescents are at school, therefore school is a privileged setting for delivering universal and selective prevention interventions that can help adolescents increase their competence to cope with life challenges (Fydenberg, 2008; GTES, 2005; 2007; Matos et al., 2008; Matos & Sampaio, 2009), namely school failure, interpersonal relationships and emotion related management.

Roth and Brooks-Gunn (2000) claim that pupils with school failure have higher rates of anti-social behavior, and they also highlighted three factors (ABC) related to lower rates of anti-social behavior: Appropriate (school ethos); Behaviors (personal), Connection (interaction). Friends are a source of social capital but also a source of relational problems such as conflict, discrimination and rejection (Morgan, 2000; Matos & Sampaio, 2009). Roth and Brooks-Gunn (2000) highlighted issues that can interfere with peer relationships, which they refer to as "FRIEND" Friendship, Resisting (peer pressure), Interests (daily interest and motivations), Examples (social models), Numbers (balance between risk and protection) and Deviant (association with a deviant peer group).

Self-regulation is related to the capacity to identify ecological risks and threats and to develop adequate, relaxed and competent coping strategies (Matos, 2009), and it is known that children and adolescents have a biological immaturity that makes self-awareness and regulation hard to manage (Bjork et al., 2004; Bjork, Smith, Danube, & Homer, 2007).

Identification, expression and management/self-regulation of emotion are a major focus for adequate, relaxed and competent coping strategies (Matos, 2005), making it possible for adolescents to solve and savor life threats, feeling good and promoting others' wellness (Bryan & Veroff, 2007).

School-based programs have been evaluated regarding their efficacy in promoting personal factors, such as communication skills, cognitive problem solving skills, emotion regulation, social relationships and future expectations, and leisure/work schedule management (Matos, 2005), and those programs have been applied both in universal preventive interventions, such as regular public schools, and in more focused interventions such as "Vocational and Special Schools". …