Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Effective Evaluation of the Friends Anxiety Prevention Program in School Settings: A Response to Maggin and Johnson

Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Effective Evaluation of the Friends Anxiety Prevention Program in School Settings: A Response to Maggin and Johnson

Article excerpt


This response aims to critically evaluate the methodology and aims of the meta-analytic review written by Maggin and Johnson (2014). The present authors systematically provide responses for each of the original criticisms and highlight concerns regarding Maggin and Johnson's methodology, while objectively describing the current state of evidence of the FRIENDS programs. The studies utilized for this response were conducted across cultural backgrounds and incorporated the most up-to-date methodology in prevention research. In review of the original article, this article raises concerns regarding the definition of prevention and risk, article identification and evaluation procedures, as well as overall methodology. Finally, it provides suggestions for future research in prevention and early intervention fields.

Keywords: prevention, resilience, FRIENDS programs, anxiety


First, the authors would like to welcome Maggin and Johnson (2014) to the growing evidence base of the FRIENDS programs. Outside of the Briesch, Hagermoser Sanetti, and Briesch (2010) systematic review, we are unaware of any similar articles published using systematic approaches to evaluate FRIENDS solely, and believe that this is an important step in the ongoing evaluation of these interventions. Considering this, although meta-analytic approaches are the gold standard evaluation for any intervention, Maggin and Johnson's approach has significant flaws, leading us to question conclusions drawn from this article. This response will highlight our concerns regarding Maggin and Johnson's article, including their definition of prevention, article and information gathering processes, measurement of effectiveness, and overall methodology.

Conceptual Flaws

It is well established that childhood onset symptomology is linked with significant burdens for individuals, families, and society. Anxiety disorders, as highlighted by Maggin and Johnson, constitute a large proportion of mental health difficulties in youth populations and often exhibit a chronic and unremitting course (Wiltink et al, 2011). Despite this, the volume and accessibility of services for child and adolescent mental health are consistently poorer than for adults (Levav, Jacobsson, Tsiantis, Kolaitis, & Ponizovsky, 2004). As such, clinicians and researchers have highlighted the importance of prevention and early intervention programs targeting anxious symptomology.

The conclusion of World War II brought about increased prevalence of mental illness and more funding for mental disease research. Born from this, was psychology's disproportionate focus on psychological ill-being and the disease model, or victimology, whereby the purpose of psychology was to assess and cure individual suffering (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). However, the dawn of the twenty-first century began a revived psychological movement toward strength and asset measurement (McCollough & Snyder, 2000; Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). McCollough and Snyder (2000) called for a shift toward emphasizing the "bright side of human existence" and, within this first decade of our new millennium, the prominence of positive development and prevention has flourished.

It is commonly accepted that the absence of mental illness, having some social support, and exhibiting some degree of occupational/ educational functioning are important in defining human thriving (McCollough & Snyder, 2000). However, prevention researchers also recognize the importance of promoting and enhancing human strengths to buffer against mental illness and to develop stronger and more productive individuals (Huebner, 2004; Seligman & Csikszent mihalyi, 2000). Despite these asset and strength-based shifts, the operationalization of prevention effectiveness is a factor that frequently affects prevention research (Barrett, Cooper, & Teoh, 2014). Current views in methodology shift between the reduction of current symptomology and impairment, improved resilience and strength, as well as the prevention of adverse outcomes. …

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