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Promoting Afterschool Quality and Positive Youth Development: Cluster Randomized Trial of the Pax Good Behavior Game

Abstract

This randomized trial tested a strategy originally developed for school settings, the Pax Good Behavior Game (PAX GBG), in the new context of afterschool programs. We examined this approach in afterschool since 70% of all juvenile crime occurs between the hours of 3–6 pm, making afterschool an important setting for prevention and promotion. Dual-career and working families need monitoring and supervision for their children in quality settings that are safe and appropriately structured. While substantial work has identified important features of afterschool programs, increasing attention is being given to how to foster quality. PAX GBG, with its focus on shared norms, cooperative teams, contingent activity rewards, and liberal praise, could potentially enhance not only appropriate structure and supportive relationships, but also youth self-regulation, co-regulation, and socio-emotional development. This study examined the PAX GBG among 76 afterschool programs, serving 811 youth ages 5–12, who were diverse in race-ethnicity, socio-economic status, and geographic locale. Demographically matched pairs of afterschool programs were randomized to PAX GBG or treatment-as-usual. Independent observers conducted ratings of implementation fidelity and program quality across time; along with surveys of children’s problem and prosocial behavior. Interaction effects were found using hierarchical linear models such that experimental programs evidencing higher implementation fidelity demonstrated better program quality than controls, (i.e., less harshness, increased appropriate structure, support, and engagement), as well as reduced child-reported hyperactivity and intent-to-treat effects on prosocial behavior. This study demonstrates that best practices fostered by PAX GBG and implemented with fidelity in afterschool result in higher quality contexts for positive youth development.

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Acknowledgments

We acknowledge funding support from William T. Grant Foundation [Grant # 8529]; the Wallace Foundation [Grant #20080489]; and the National Institute for Drug Abuse [Grant # R01 DA025187]. We acknowledge former W. T. Grant Executives, Robert Granger, Edward Seidman and Vivian Tseng, whose feedback on this study was invaluable. We are also grateful for the many staff, parents, and children whose participation made this study possible.

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Correspondence to Emilie Phillips Smith.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. A process for obtaining informed consent from all individual participants was included in the study. Research involving Human Participants was approved and monitored by The Pennsylvania State University Institutional Review Board (IRB # 23990).

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Smith, E.P., Osgood, D.W., Oh, Y. et al. Promoting Afterschool Quality and Positive Youth Development: Cluster Randomized Trial of the Pax Good Behavior Game. Prev Sci 19, 159–173 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11121-017-0820-2

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Keywords

  • Afterschool quality
  • Child socio-emotional outcomes
  • Co-regulation
  • Implementation fidelity
  • PAX GBG
  • Positive youth development
  • PAX GBG
  • Randomized trial
  • Self-regulation
  • Setting-level effects