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Is a life skills training infusion an effective strategy to reduce substance use among at-risk teens in a mentoring program?




Konkel, Kristen E., author
Henry, Kimberly, advisor
Aloise-Young, Patricia, committee member
Davalos, Deana, committee member
Haddock, Shelley, committee member
Youngblade, Lise, committee member

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Adolescent substance use is a challenge that has myriad detrimental consequences for the individual, school systems, and society. Before graduating from high school, 70% of high school students have consumed alcohol (Johnston, O'Malley, Bachman, & Schulenberg, 2009) and 40% have tried marijuana (Johnston et al., 2009). There is a critical need to address this issue using novel evidence-based interventions that are adaptable to a school or community’s needs. Interventions focusing improving adolescent skills and providing a pro-social adult may help adolescents overcome some of the factors that put them at risk for substance use. For the current project, I designed, implemented, and evaluated an infusion-model type intervention, where two evidence-based programs for substance use reduction among at-risk teens were innovatively combined and executed. Specifically, Life Skills Training (LST; Botvin, Eng, & Williams, 1980), a skills-based program that traditionally has been delivered in a school classroom setting, was adapted and infused into Campus Connections (CC), a youth mentorship program at Colorado State University that matches university students with an at-risk youth from the community. Participants included 166 11-18 year olds enrolled in CC (85 in the LST infusion group, 81 in the comparsion group). Facilitators were trained to deliver age-appropriate 20-minute LST lessons each evening during CC, and the college student mentors were trained to practice skills and behaviors as well as have conversations with the participants about each topic during the rest of the CC evening. After a successful implementation, the evaluation unexpectedly did not show significant results. Participants in the LST infusion group did not have increased social skills, personal self-management skills, or drug resistance skills, nor did they have lower levels of substance use, substance use intentions, or self-reported delinquent behavior. A secondary evaluation of the LST-infusion treatment group only did not show that mentor fidelity to the program infusion improved outcomes. Practical implications for prevention and limitations of the current study are discussed.


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