Academic journal article Journal of Alcohol & Drug Education

Exploring the Long-Term Impact of a Positive Youth Development-Based Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Prevention Program

Academic journal article Journal of Alcohol & Drug Education

Exploring the Long-Term Impact of a Positive Youth Development-Based Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Prevention Program

Article excerpt


The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of a positive youth development (PYD) substance prevention program, Youth to Youth (Y2Y) International. 760 youth completed pre- and post-surveys across three separate Y2Y Summer Conferences. 126 of these youth also completed a six-month post-conference survey. Overall, significant improvements from pre- to post-conference were found in relation to improved knowledge of alcohol, tobacco and other drug (ATOD) risks, attitudes toward use, self-efficacy, perceptions of leadership and future participation and involvement in the Y2Y program. The six-month follow-up assessment demonstrated that, in some cases perceptions continued to be more favorable. Findings from this study showcase the value of prevention programs such as Y2Y in supporting positive youth development.

Keywords: positive youth development; substance prevention program; summer leadership conferences; youth empowerment


Over the last several decades, there has been a paradigmatic shift in youth research and programming (Ginwright & Cammarota, 2002; Travis & Leech, 2014). Historically viewed as community problems and social ills, the focus of youth programming often was on "fixing" youth (Ginwright & Cammarota, 2002; Zimmerman, 1995). This negative view of youth was especially prevalent amongst minority youth, who were often viewed as having delinquent characteristics, (as seen in Travis & Leech, 2014). However, in recent years practitioners and researchers alike have begun to view youth as valuable community assets and resources who have inherent strengths and untapped potential (Amodeo & Codings, 2007; Camire, 2015; Coakley, 2011; Ribisl et al., 2004;). As a result of this paradigmatic shift, the focus has moved away from youth deficits towards empowerment-focused resiliency frameworks and strength-based approaches (Amodeo & Codings, 2007; Coakley, 2011; Travis & Leech, 2014).

Correspondingly, through an approach known as positive youth development (PYD), many professionals have become vested partners in investigating youth developmental outcomes and associated life trajectories (Author, Ortega, Lower, & Paluta, 2016). Specifically, through a PYD approach, youth development is viewed as a holistic process which helps to empower and prepare youth to be socially, morally, emotionally, cognitively and physically competent to manage the challenges of adolescence and adulthood (Author, Lower, Riley, Author, & Author, in press). PYD programming has been utilized in a wide variety of contexts including academic, afterschool, adventure and wilderness and sport programs (Gould & Carson, 2008; Ferris, Ettekal, Agans, & Burkhard, 2015; Norton & Watt, 2014; Wilson, Gottfredson, Cross, Rorie, & Conned, 2010). Research has demonstrated that a PYD approach to programming is associated with outcomes such as increased emotional regulation, initiative and teamwork, as wed as decreased school dropout and substance abuse (Fredrick & Eccles, 2006; Kendellen & Camire, 2015; Larson, Hansen, & Moneta, 2006; Lower, Author, & Author, 2015; Riley, Author, Logan, Author, & Davis, 2016; Yin & Moore, 2004).

While the PYD approach to youth programming has continued to grow, one context which needs to be better understood is within substance use and abuse prevention for youth, particularly among highly vulnerable youth (Brook, Rifenbard, Boulton, Little, & McDonald, 2015; Jahanshahloo, Mohammadkhani, Amiri, Fakhari, & Hoesini, 2016; Marr-Lyon, Young, & Quintero, 2008). Moreover, the need to more fully understand the lasting impact of such programming has been identified (Holden, Messeri, Evans, Crankshaw, & Ben-Davies, 2004).

Substance Use and Abuse among Youth

Substance use and abuse among youth continues to be a problem and is the second leading cause of accidental death among all ages in the United States (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2010). …

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