Longitudinal Effects of Youth Empowerment Solutions: Preventing Youth Aggression and Increasing Prosocial Behavior

Thulin, E. J., Lee, D. B., Eisman, A. B., Reischl, T. M., Hutchison, P., Franzen, S., & Zimmerman, M. A. (2022). Longitudinal effects of Youth Empowerment Solutions: preventing youth aggression and increasing prosocial behaviorAmerican journal of community psychology. doi.org/10.1002/ajcp.12577


Youth violence remains a significant public health problem despite efforts to address it. We describe the evaluation results of Youth Empowerment Solutions (YES), an after-school active learning program implemented by trained local teachers and designed to engage middle school youth in multi-systematic promotive behaviors at the individual-, interpersonal-, and community-level to make lasting positive changes within the context of institutional disadvantages, such as racism. First, we used a modified randomized controlled trial design to examine the direct and indirect influence of YES on prosocial and delinquent behaviors 12 months after the conclusion of the program, through youth empowerment. Next, we evaluated these models by race, to determine if the intervention equitably promotes prosocial outcomes and decreases aggressive behaviors. Among 329 middle school students, YES participation enhanced prosocial behaviors through empowerment, and directly reduced aggressive behaviors a year after the conclusion of the program. This trend was particularly pronounced for African American youth. These effects were found after controlling for age, sex, and behavioral outcomes at baseline, and across different schools and teachers, suggesting that YES can also be sustainable and readily implemented by communities. The implications of the results for youth violence prevention, empowerment theory and intervention development and practice for ethnic minority youth who face structural disenfranchisement are discussed.


Keywords: African American; adolescent; community development; empowerment; resiliency; violence prevention.