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Stronger effort needed to prevent mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders in young people
Date:2/13/2009

mated 14 percent to 20 percent of young people have one of these disorders.

First symptoms typically occur two to four years before the onset of a full-blown disorder creating a window of opportunity when preventive programs might make a difference, the report says. And some programs have shown effectiveness at preventing specific disorders in at-risk groups. For example, the Clarke Cognitive-Behavioral Prevention Intervention, which focuses on helping adolescents at risk for depression learn to cope with stress, has prevented episodes of major depression in several controlled experiments.

Other programs have demonstrated broader preventive effects in general populations of young people, the report says. Programs that can be offered in family or educational settings show particular promise in promoting mental health and addressing major risk factors.

One example of an effective school-based program is the Good Behavior Game, which divides elementary school classes into teams and reinforces desirable behaviors with rewards such as extra free time and other privileges. Studies have shown that the program significantly reduces aggressive and disruptive behavior during first grade. The one-year intervention also has benefits over the long term, lowering the students' risk of alcohol and drug abuse, as well as rates of suicidal thoughts and attempts. And it significantly reduces the likelihood that highly aggressive boys will be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder as adults. Research has shown that programs that focus on enhancing social and emotional skills can also improve students' academic performance, the report notes.

Still other programs improve children's mental health and behavior by enhancing parenting skills, the report says. The Positive Parenting Program, for example, uses a range of approaches, from a television series on how to handle common child-rearing problems to in-person skills training
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Contact: Sara Frueh
news@nas.edu
202-334-2138
National Academy of Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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