Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Clinical Trial of Second Step Middle School Program: Impact on Bullying, Cyberbullying, Homophobic Teasing, and Sexual Harassment Perpetration

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Clinical Trial of Second Step Middle School Program: Impact on Bullying, Cyberbullying, Homophobic Teasing, and Sexual Harassment Perpetration

Article excerpt

Social-emotional learning (SEL) programs are increasingly being implemented in U.S. schools to address a wide range of problematic behaviors and to promote academic success (Durlak, Weissberg, Dymnicki, Taylor, & Schellinger, 2011; Espelage & Low, 2012). SEL programs use social skill instruction to address behavior, discipline, safety, and academics and to help youth become self-aware, manage their emotions, build social skills (empathy, perspective taking, respect for diversity), develop friendship skills, and learn positive coping and problem-solving skills (Zins, Weissberg, Wang, & Walberg, 2004). A meta-analysis of 213 SEL-based evaluations found that youth in schools with SEL programming reported fewer conduct problems than youth in comparison schools with no SEL exposure (Durlak et al., 2011). These authors conceptualized conduct problems broadly to include disruptive class behavior, noncompliance, aggression, bullying, school suspensions, and delinquent acts. Although bullying and other forms of aggression are correlated with delinquency (i.e., deviant and oppositional behaviors), they are not the same constructs. Indeed, it is likely that SEL programs differ regarding when and to what extent they reduce these variant forms of problematic behaviors as their developmental pathways (i.e., origin and elaboration) likely vary. Thus, in this study, we examined the direct effects of a middle school SEL program (i.e., Second Step Middle School Program; Committee for Children, 2008) on multiple forms of aggression perpetration (e.g., face-to-face bullying, cyberbullying, homophobic name-calling, and sexual harassment) over the course of a 3-year randomized clinical trial (RCT). We also examined an indirect effect of the Second Step program on these outcomes through the intervening variable of self-reported delinquency.

In this study, the distal outcomes included bullying, cyberbullying, homophobic name-calling, and sexual harassment perpetration. For the purpose of this article, bullying perpetration includes verbal and social aggression directed at other students repeatedly over the past month (Espelage & Holt, 2001). Cyberbullying perpetration is defined as engaging in rumor spreading or mean behaviors through cell phones or online (Ybarra, Espelage, & Mitchell, 2007). Sexual harassment perpetration is defined as directing unwanted sexual commentary, sexual rumor spreading, and touching (e.g., groping or fondling) toward other peers (Basile & Saltzman, 2002; Espelage, Basile, & Hamburger, 2012). Homophobic name-calling perpetration is a particular form of gender-based name-calling (e.g., calling others "gay" or "fag") in which friends and nonfriends engage (Espelage et al., 2012). Given that these constructs are all measuring verbal aggression, there is likely to be some overlap, but they have emerged as distinct constructs in previous studies (e.g., with low to moderate correlations; Espelage et al., 2012; Poteat & Espelage, 2005, 2007; Ybarra et al., 2007). Nonviolent delinquency (e.g., skipping school, cheating, shoplifting) was assessed as a candidate mediator, which has been found to be distinct from aggression among middle school youth (Farrell, Kung, White, & Valois, 2000).

SECOND STEP MIDDLE SCHOOL PROGRAM

SEL programming, and the Second Step program in particular, is predicated on the risk and protective factor theory, suggesting that problem behaviors are rooted in a common, overlapping group of risk and protective factors (Coie et al., 1993; Rolf, Masten, Cicchetti, Neuchterlein, & Weintraub, 1990). The Second Step: Student Success Through Prevention program (hereafter referred to as Second Step; Committee for Children, 2008) is a universal curricular classroom intervention. The program is composed of 15 lessons at Grade 6 and 13 lessons each at Grades 7 and 8. The lessons are delivered in one 50-min or two 25-min classroom sessions, taught weekly or semiweekly throughout the school year. …

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