Problem Behavior & Positive Youth Development Program Overview

The Problem Behavior & Positive Youth Development Program is an interdisciplinary research effort seeking to understand the nature, course of development, and later life consequences of behaviors that put young people's health and development at risk. The Program is comprised of eight University of Colorado tenure-track faculty; six in Social Science departments, one in Law, and one in the Health Sciences Center. It is housed in two buildings; one in the Grandview area and one on the northwest side of campus. The Professional Research Associate and Assistant staff includes six Ph.D. Research Associates, nine M.A. Senior Research Assistants, and typically six to nine graduate students.

Research in the Program has focused on delinquency, illicit drug use, alcohol abuse, cigarette smoking, precocious sexual activity, school failure and drop out, violence and aggression, risky driving, running away, health-compromising behaviors such as insufficient exercise and unhealthy diet, evaluation and dissemination of violence, drug, and delinquency programs, and mental health problems such as depression. Research on these issues is enhanced by the type of interdisciplinary approach the Program promotes. It is the oldest of the five research programs at IBS and has the largest portfolio, both in numbers of grants and funding. There are currently 14 grants in force totaling slightly over $9 Million with at least 6 grants projected through 2004. The Problem Behavior & Positive Youth Development Program continues to be recognized as one of the strongest interdisciplinary research efforts on problem behavior in the United States and internationally.

In recent years, three research directions have been given special attention within the Program:

High Risk Youth: The concern with youth in high risk settings of poverty and disadvantage was supported by a major initiative of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and directed by Richard Jessor. A large-scale, long-term, national program of collaborative research was organized to advance understanding of successful adolescent development despite the adversity and limited opportunity that characterizes areas of poverty and disadvantage. This effort, headquartered within the Problem Behavior & Positive Youth Development Program, involved a dozen leading behavioral scientists located at universities around the country, as well as three Program faculty, and included research projects in inner-city schools, in low-income neighborhoods, and in rural areas experiencing severe economic decline. The MacArthur research enlarged the interdisciplinary character of the Program, and strengthened its potential contribution to social policy at the national level.

Longitudinal Studies of Youth Development: Additional studies, such as the Denver Youth Survey (DYS) and the National Youth Survey (NYS), are also concerned with antisocial behavior and successful development across the life-course, from childhood through adolescence and young adulthood. The DYS, in collaboration with colleagues in Bremen, Germany, has undertaken a cross-national comparative effort as well. Another international comparative study focused on adolescent risk behavior is being conducted in Beijing, China, and Denver. The second of three annual waves of data collection is currently underway on the Beijing/Denver Study; the 11th wave of the Denver Youth Study is scheduled for the Spring of 2003; and the 11th wave of the National Youth Survey is currently underway.

Violence: The Program's Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence (CSPV) was founded in June 1992 with support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. CSPV's central mission is to bridge the knowledge gap between the academic research community, practitioners, policy makers, and community members.

The nucleus of the CSPV dissemination effort is the Information House, which provides a central location through which violence-related information is collected, evaluated, stored, and disseminated. CSPV's technical assistance projects provide guidance to violence prevention practitioners regarding program development and evaluation. These technical assistance efforts have been directed toward work with the Colorado Trust in a statewide Violence Prevention Initiative, the Colorado Youth Crime Prevention and Intervention Program, the Anti-Defamation League, and the National Network of Violence Prevention Practitioners.

CSPV has received several recent awards for excellence including the Worldfest Houston 2002 Platinum Award for the Blueprints for Violence Prevention Video; the Youth Crime Watch of America Local Organization of the Year Award; Four Star Designation for the CSPV Website by the Child and Family Web Guide; and a top 5 percent in K-12 Education Rating by the Awesome Library Editor's Choice for the website.

CSPV's basic research function is to address the voids and weaknesses in the violence research literature. Secondary analysis of data, development of research pilot projects, and support of research on violence prevention are the primary research target areas of the Center. Two feature projects that incorporate all three strengths of CSPV are the Blueprints for Violence Prevention and the Safe Communities-Safe Schools Initiative. Researchers working on the Blueprints project identified 11 programs that met a high scientific standard for effectiveness. With funding from the Justice Department, CSPV is implementing these model programs and evaluating the fidelity of their implementation in approximately 400 schools and 135 communities across the United States. The Safe Communities-Safe Schools Initiative, with financial support primarily from the Colorado Trust and collaboration with the Colorado Attorney General, the Colorado Department of Education, and all the professional educational associations in the state (e.g., CASB, CASE, CTA, CFT), provides technical assistance for safe school planning to all public schools in the state. In addition, this project involves an experimental evaluation study involving eight large schools and eight smaller districts (experimental sites) and five control schools, in an intensive safe school planning and implementation effort.