Testing a Multilevel Preventive Intervention in Youth Courts


National Health Promotion Associates




Drug Abuse


Behavioral: Life Skills Training

Study type


Funder types




Details and patient eligibility


The proposed research is designed to adapt and test an evidence-based drug abuse prevention approach for use in youth courts among first-time, non-violent, adolescent offenders. The ultimate goal is to reduce the adverse health, legal, and social consequences of youth drug abuse, violence, and delinquency. Planned project activities include conducting: 1) key informant interviews of youth court directors regarding logistical and intervention features of effective youth court programming; and, 2) a randomized controlled efficacy trial of an adapted version of Life Skills Training, an evidence-based drug and violence prevention program. It is anticipated that the findings will provide critical information on implementing evidence-based prevention programs for new populations and settings and will support preparations for a large-scale effectiveness trial in youth peer courts.

Full description

Adolescents in under-served, urban communities are disproportionately involved in the juvenile justice system. This early engagement has been shown to be a strong predictor of more serious offenses in adulthood, such that youth involvement in the court system is a significant public health concern. Juvenile justice approaches have traditionally emphasized individualized treatment efforts combined with discipline and punishment. More recently, however, juvenile justice professionals have questioned the adequacy of this approach and are increasingly adopting an asset-based perspective referred to as "positive youth justice" (PYJ). The PYJ approach encourages youth court participants to build upon their existing strengths, while learning and mastering new life skills, through development of pro-social relationships within their peer group, family, and community. These "core assets" are posited to promote the successful entry into young adulthood. For this project, the investigative team will adapt and test a multilevel, multi-component, intervention that has strong potential to reduce substance use and delinquency while correspondingly promoting positive youth justice among youth court participants and staff. The first component of the current project involves interviewing program directors from a representative sample of youth courts throughout the U.S to gain formative feedback about logistical and programming concerns. The second component of the project is designed to promote individual-level change among youth participants and consists of an adapted version of the Life Skills Training (LST) program, an evidence-based drug and violence prevention program which teaches personal self-management skills, social skills, drug refusal skills, and other life skills needed to successfully navigate developmental tasks, increase resilience, and facilitate healthy psycho-social development. Several youth courts have used the Life Skills Training program, suggesting that it meets a perceived need and is feasible in this setting. However, LST has never been rigorously tested in the youth court setting. The proposed research will involve a randomized efficacy trial with 560 adolescents in youth court. The investigative team will examine intervention effects on substance use, delinquent behavior, school performance, and recidivism rates using mixed qualitative (assessment of dosage, fidelity, and provider and participant feedback to determine their impact on program efficacy) and quantitative (survey assessments at pretest, post-test, and six-month follow-up) methods to estimate the effect size of the adapted and combined program. By intervening with both youth court participants and youth court staff, the proposed multilevel intervention can have a broad impact on risk and protective factors at multiple levels of influence. The ultimate goal of this research is to promote the use of an evidence-based prevention approach adapted specifically for implementation in youth courts in order to reduce the adverse consequences of drug abuse, violence, and delinquency among youth offenders. The specific aims of this project will be to: Conduct key informant interviews with a diverse sample of youth court program coordinators; Conduct expert review of the LST intervention materials to ensure accuracy and appropriateness for the youth court setting and revise appropriately for an efficacy trial; Evaluate the efficacy of the combined youth court intervention (staff training plus LST) in preventing substance use, delinquency and violence, improving hypothesized mediators of intervention effects, including knowledge, attitudes and life skills, and promoting effective youth placements in community settings; Examine the degree to which process variables such as dosage and fidelity moderate intervention effects; Examine all recruitment, incentive, consent, tracking and assessment procedures in preparation for a subsequent national effectiveness trial.


423 patients




13 to 17 years old


Accepts Healthy Volunteers

Inclusion criteria

Inclusion criteria for youth participants will include regular participation in youth court activities and informed consent

Exclusion criteria

  • Exclusion criteria for youth participants will include significant cognitive impairment or severe learning disabilities, as screened by staff at the youth court
  • Any previous experience with the intervention program will also exclude adolescents from participating

Trial design

Primary purpose




Interventional model

Single Group Assignment


None (Open label)

423 participants in 1 patient group

Life Skills Training
Experimental group
All youth who consent to participate in the proposed study will 1) complete the youth peer court sanction delivered by the jury of peers (e.g., apologies or essays, restitution, curfew and travel restrictions, counseling, etc.), which will constitute "treatment as usual"; and 2) complete pre, post, and six-month follow-up surveys. Those randomized to the intervention condition (n=280) will participate in the LST program concurrently during the weeks when they serve as peer court jurors.
Behavioral: Life Skills Training

Trial contacts and locations



Data sourced from clinicaltrials.gov

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