Academic journal article International Journal of Child and Adolescent Health

Subjective Outcome Evaluation of the Community-Based Program of the P.A.T.H.S. Project in Hong Kong

Academic journal article International Journal of Child and Adolescent Health

Subjective Outcome Evaluation of the Community-Based Program of the P.A.T.H.S. Project in Hong Kong

Article excerpt

Introduction

Psychological and behavioral problems in adolescents such as depression, problem gambling, self-harm and suicidal behavior, internet addiction, delinquency, and premarital sexual behavior are rising in the global contexts (1-3). These problem behaviors are often cooccurring: Walther et al. (3) revealed positive associations between several addictive behaviors (e.g., use of tobacco, alcohol and cannabis); depression symptoms were associated with drug abuse and risk behaviors (1,4). Besides co-morbidity, these problem behaviors have long-term negative influences on adolescent health and psychosocial development. For instance, adolescents showing problem behaviors had lower levels of educational achievement and physical health but higher levels of continued involvement in problem behaviors in adulthood (5). A recent meta-analysis also showed negative consequences of health-risk behavior (6).

To protect adolescents from the harmful consequences of problem behaviors and to promote their holistic development, programs using the perspective of positive youth development (PYD) have been designed, particularly in Western countries. These programs usually consist of several domains such as cognitive and social competences, confidence, connections to others, and prosocial behaviors (7). A large number of evaluation studies have also illustrated the positive effects of these programs such as decreased risky behaviors, better academic achievement, and increased self-efficacy, suggesting that PYD programs could promote adolescents' allround development and better developmental outcomes (8). With specific reference to Hong Kong, Shek and his colleagues developed a PYD program entitled "Positive Adolescent Training through Holistic Social Programmes" (Project P.A.T.H.S.), which targets junior secondary students in Hong Kong. The project incorporates 15 positive youth constructs (e.g., bonding, emotional competence, selfefficacy, and prosocial involvement) to nurture adolescent psychosocial competencies and promote their holistic development (9).

The Project P.A.T.H.S. has been successfully implemented since 2005, and its effectiveness in promoting psychosocial competences in teenagers has been demonstrated by several evaluation studies using multiple methods (10-12). After eight-year's remarkable success in school-based implementation, a community-based version of the project has been implemented since 2013. In the community-based phase, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) took the main responsibility to recruit participants and implement the programs. The project includes two tiers of program in which the Tier 2 Program is specifically designed for those who have greater psychosocial needs in various domains. For Tier 2 Program, NGOs are required to review the needs of the participating students and then design appropriate programs to meet their needs. During the implementation, the two widely used approaches were adventure-based counseling (ABC) and volunteer training and service (VTS). The former incorporated wilderness, experiential learning, adventures to promote students' intrapersonal and interpersonal skills, while the latter applied volunteerism to enhance students' empathy and prosocial attitudes. These two approaches were helpful for youth development (13-15). In the previous studies, besides these two "pure" types, there are other types of Tier 2 Programs, such as programs combing ABC and VTS elements, and programs without elements of ABC or VTS.

In addition to different program approaches, Tier 2 Program implementation also differed in terms of the type of participants. While some programs engaged students, implementers, and parents, some programs involved both students and implementers whereas some programs only involved students. Though previous studies have suggested positive impacts of involving mentors or parents on program effectiveness (8,16), a recent study showed that programs involving students only were more favored by students in comparison to programs also involving teachers and/or parents (17). …

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