The effects of an experiential-based prevention education program on alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs knowledge, and social attitudes and skills of first-time offender, non-adjudicated youth

Linda Marie Vasquez

Abstract

Prevention education strategies often attempt to target the enhancement of adolescents' critical life and social skills, since such skills deficits have been identified as known risk factors for problem behavior and substance abuse (Center for Substance Abuse Prevention [CSAP], 1993 a). Didactic-alone approaches have not been shown to be particularly effective in improving adolescents' knowledge and beliefs about the negative aspects of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs (ATOD) use. Traditional (lecture-only) approaches have not demonstrated efficaciousness in the enhancement of social skills and attitudes deemed important as protective factors among adolescents which serve to buffer or reduce their risks of future ATOD use (Tobler, 1986; Witman, 1987). Experientially-based, adventure education programs have demonstrated some promise in the development and promotion of social skills and positive individual confidence constructs among a variety of populations. The purpose of the current study was to determine the effects of an experiential-based prevention education program on ATOD knowledge and social skills and attitudes of non-delinquent adolescents who were first-time ATOD offenders. A pretest-posttest with control group quasi-experimental design was used to determine treatment effects on the targeted variables. T-test comparison between the experimental and control groups were conducted on all posttreatment data. Twenty-one 13-16 year old adolescents volunteered to participate in the study. Subjects were randomly placed into either the experimental ( n = 10) or control (n = 11) group. All subjects were given the Measurement of Social Empowerment and Trust (SET ) (Witman, 1992) and the ATOD Knowledge Test (Skills for Adolescence, 1985). The experimental group participated in a six week experiential-based prevention education program specifically designed to assist participants in acquisition of ATOD knowledge and personal/social understandings about ATOD use. The control group did not participate in the instructional phase of the study. Significant differences (p < .05) between the experimental and control groups were noted on the overall SET and three subscales (Bonding/Cohesion, Empowerment, and Self-Awareness) and on the ATOD Knowledge Test . Since significant treatment effects were noted on these performance parameters, it was concluded that the experiential-based educational prevention program was an effective instructional approach in enhancing participants' social skills and attitudes as well as their ATOD knowledge levels. No significant differences were noted between groups on three SET subscales (Affirmations and Awareness of Others) on the posttreatment data.