Prevalences of problem behaviours such as the consumption of legal substances (alcohol, nicotine) increase during adolescence. Results indicate that prevention of substance misuse is possible through Life-Skills-Programs that combine different prevention strategies by the training of general and substance-specific life-skills (e.g. resistance skills), and provide information using interactive teaching methods (e.g. role play). Life-skills should enable children and adolescents to deal with everyday challenges and tasks in an effective and competent way. Combined with substance-specific skills and knowledge, Life-Skills-Programs can delay the onset of substance use and reduce consumption patterns during adolescence.
The Life-Skills-Program IPSY (Information + Psychososical Competence = Protection), a school-based prevention program, was developed for 5th grade school classes. During the pilot-testing at a Thuringian Gymnasium (Gymnasium Friedericianum, Rudolstadt) the 15 IPSY-units (10x19min, 5x45min) were facilitated by teachers or by older peers (11th grade students). The evaluation demonstrated the effectiveness of IPSY regarding life skills, knowledge as well as consumption rates of alcohol and tobacco, especially when teachers were the facilitators of the program, compared to students that took part in the peer-condition or control group.
In addition to the basic program for 5th grade students there are two booster sessions for grades 6 and 7. These booster sessions were developed for strengthening the skills students learned in the basic program.
The aim of the current project (in cooperation with the Thuringian Ministry of Culture, Science, and Arts) is to implement IPSY in 40 schools using teachers as facilitators. At the same time an evaluation study in 22 schools will test differential intervention effects (e.g. differences in effectiveness between students with and without behavioural problems during childhood). Results of the evaluation show that the IPSY program has positive effects on the short-term and the long-term development of participating students. According to this for students that took part in the program the characteristic onset of substance use could be delayed. Furthermore the program showed positive effects concerning the promotion of resistance skills, self-esteem and school bonding. The described effects could be demonstrated for both school types, Regelschule and Gymnasium. The acceptance of the program by teachers and students was very high. Boys and girls showed positive effects. This study is coupled with another study which is analyzing the development of risk behavior among adolescents.
The IPSY program has also shown to be very effective in an international context. The results of the implementation and evaluation in Italy were similar to that in Germany. Also in Austria the program was succesfully tested.
Currently, we are working on the development and evaluation of a new program module for grade 8. The manual will be released 2013 at Hogrefe Verlag.
The project is financially supported by the Department of Developmental Psychology (Head: Prof. R. K. Silbereisen), by Philip Morris GmbH and by funds of the Program Promotion of Excellence in Scientific Activities at Thuringian Universities (Research group leader: Dr. Karina Weichold).
- Weichold, K. & Silbereisen, R. K. (2012). Peers vs. teachers as facilitators of a life skills program against substance use in early adolescence - Results from a pilot study. Sucht - German Journal for Addiction Research and Practice, 58, 247-258.
- Weichold, K., Brambosch, A. & Silbereisen, R. K. (2012). Do girls profit more? Gender-specific effectiveness of a life skills program against alcohol consumption in early adolescence. Journal of Early Adolescence, 32, 200-225.
- Spaeth, M., Weichold, K., Silbereisen, R. K. & Wiesner, M. (2010). Examining the differential effectiveness of a life-skills program (IPSY) on alcohol use trajectories in early adolescence. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 78, 334-348.
- Wenzel, V., Weichold, K. & Silbereisen, R. K. (2009). The life skills program IPSY: Positive influences on school bonding and prevention of substance misuse. Journal of Adolescence, 32, 1391-1401.
- Weichold, K. (2008). Alkoholpraevention durch Lebenskompetenzenprogramme. In P. Tossmann & N. H. Weber (Eds.), Alkoholpraevention in Erziehung und Unterricht (pp. 102-114). 2. überarbeitete und erweiterte Auflage. Herbholzheim: Centaurus-Verlag.
- Weichold, K. (2007). Prevention against substance misuse: Life Skills and Positive Youth Development. In R. K. Silbereisen & R. M. Lerner (Eds.), Approaches to positive youth development. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
- Wenzel, V., Weichold, K. & Silbereisen, R. K. (2007). Schultypspezifische Wirksamkeit eines Lebenskompetenzprogramms. Sucht - German Journal for Addiction Research and Practice, 53(6), 335-346.
K. Weichold and Silbereisen, R. K.