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Prev Sci. 2017 Feb;18(2):214-224. doi: 10.1007/s11121-016-0745-1.

Can Universal SEL Programs Benefit Universally? Effects of the Positive Action Program on Multiple Trajectories of Social-Emotional and Misconduct Behaviors.

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Human Development and Family Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, USA.
School of Education, University of California, Irvine, 2066 Education, Irvine, CA, 92697, USA.
Human Development and Family Science, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK, USA.
Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California, Davis, CA, USA.
Health Science Department, California State University, Long Beach, Long Beach, CA, USA.
Community Health Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA.
Human Development and Family Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, USA.
Public Health, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, USA.


Behavioral trajectories during middle childhood are predictive of consequential outcomes later in life (e.g., substance abuse, violence). Social and emotional learning (SEL) programs are designed to promote trajectories that reflect both growth in positive behaviors and inhibited development of negative behaviors. The current study used growth mixture models to examine effects of the Positive Action (PA) program on behavioral trajectories of social-emotional and character development (SECD) and misconduct using data from a cluster-randomized trial that involved 14 schools and a sample of predominately low-income, urban youth followed from 3rd through 8th grade. For SECD, findings indicated that PA was similarly effective at improving trajectories within latent classes characterized as "high/declining" and "low/stable". Favorable program effects were likewise evident to a comparable degree for misconduct across observed latent classes that reflected "low/rising" and "high/rising" trajectories. These findings suggest that PA and perhaps other school-based universal SEL programs have the potential to yield comparable benefits across subgroups of youth with differing trajectories of positive and negative behaviors, making them promising strategies for achieving the intended goal of school-wide improvements in student outcomes.


Behavioral trajectories; Growth mixture modeling; Misconduct; Positive Action; Social and emotional learning

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