Unplugged - a Comprehensive Social Influence programme for schools: life skills training with correction of normative beliefs

At a glance

Country of origin: 
Italy
Last reviewed: 
18.10.2017
Age group: 
11-14 years
Target group: 
Children aged 12-14 years
Programme setting(s): 
School
Level(s) of intervention: 
Universal prevention

Unplugged is a school-based programme that incorporates components focusing on critical thinking, decision making, problem solving, creative thinking, effective communication, interpersonal relationship skills, self-awareness, empathy, coping with emotions and stress, normative beliefs, and knowledge about the harmful health effects of drugs. The curriculum consists of 12 one-hour units taught once a week by class teachers who have previously attended a 2.5-day training course.

Keywords: 
No data
Contact details: 

Professor Federica Vigna-Taglianti, PhD
University of Torino
Regione Gonzole, 10 - 10043 Orbassano (TO),
Italy
Email: federica.vignataglianti[a]unito.it

Professor Peer van der Kreeft, PhD
University College Ghent,
Valentin Vaerwyckweg 1, 9000 Gent,
Belgium
Email: peer.vanderkreeft[a]hogent.be

Professor Fabrizio Faggiano, PhD
Avogadro University
Via Solaroli 1
Novara, Italy
Email: fabrizio.faggiano[a]uniupo.it

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overview of results from the European studies

Last reviewed: 
18.10.2017
Evidence rating: 
Beneficial

Studies overview

The programme has been evaluated in a cluster randomised controlled trial (RCT) involving children aged 12-14 years in seven European countries: Austria, Belgium, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain and Sweden. There was also a cluster RCT in the Czech Republic involving children with a mean age of 11.8 years.

For the cross-country study at post-test, exposure to Unplugged was associated with a statistically significant lower prevalence of self-reported daily use of cigarettes, episodes of drunkenness and cannabis use in the past 30 days in the intervention condition compared with the control condition. Young people receiving the programme were less likely than those in the control condition to move from non-smoking or sporadic smoking to daily smoking. Similar patterns emerged in the use of other substances. An analysis by gender found that delayed progression and enhanced regression were higher in the intervention condition among boys, whereas no, minimal or reverse differences were observed among girls.

At 18-month follow-up, the use of tobacco and frequency of drunkenness were lower among students in the intervention condition compared to those in the control condition. Students in the intervention condition showed higher tendencies to remain non-users of tobacco or to regress from occasional to no use. The number of students reporting no drunkenness in the past 30 days was higher among students in the intervention condition compared to those in the control condition. Intervention condition participants also reported fewer alcohol-related behaviour problems compared to controls. Further, participants who reported not drinking at baseline were more likely to retain this status at follow-up after participating in the intervention, and those who reported drinking only occasionally at baseline showed a slower progression towards frequent drinking by follow-up if they participated in the intervention. When considering cannabis use, the proportion of persistent non-users was higher among the intervention condition than the control condition. All of these differences were statistically significant.

The Czech study found a statistically significant effect favouring the intervention, with intervention participants less likely than those in the control condition to have smoked cigarettes in the last 30 days at 3-, 15- and 24-months post-intervention. At the other two time periods (1 and 12 months), differences between conditions in 30-day cigarette use were not statistically significant. There were no statistically significant differences between intervention and control conditions on lifetime cigarette prevalence rates.

References of studies

Countries where evaluated

Austria
Belgium
Czech Republic
Germany
Greece
Italy
Spain
Sweden

Characteristics

Protective factor(s) addressed: 
Individual and peers: Problem solving skills
Individual and peers: skills for social interaction
Risk factor(s) addressed: 
No defined Risk factors
Outcomes targeted: 
Alcohol use
Use of illicit drugs
Smoking (tobacco)

Description of programme

Unplugged is a school-based programme that incorporates components focusing on critical thinking, decision making, problem solving, creative thinking, effective communication, interpersonal relationship skills, self-awareness, empathy, coping with emotions and stress, normative beliefs, and knowledge about the harmful health effects of drugs.

Unplugged particularly emphasised correcting pupils' beliefs about the pervasiveness of substance use ('normative beliefs') by contrasting these with data from surveys of pupils of the same age which typically reveal that average use levels are lower.

The curriculum consists of 12 one-hour units taught once a week by class teachers who have previously attended a 2.5-day training course in the lessons and materials, and in how to teach them using methods which encourage interaction between pupils and between pupils and teachers, such as role-play and giving and receiving feedback in small groups.. Based on teacher feedback and barriers identified during the first implementations of Unplugged, the revised programme's lessons are: 1. Opening Unplugged, 2. To be or not to be in a group, 3. Choices – Alcohol, Risk and Protection, 4. Your beliefs, norms and information – do they reflect reality?, 5. Smoking the cigarette drug – Inform yourself, 6. Express yourself, 7. Get up, stand up, 8. Party tiger, 9. Drugs - Get informed, 10. Coping competences, 11. Problem solving and decision making, 12. Goal setting

Materials can be acessed for free here

This basic curriculum is ideally supplemented either by meetings led by pupils selected by their classmates, or by workshops for the pupils' parents. While in the implementations for the first trial, the curriculum was moderately well implemented, peer-led activities were rarely conducted, few parents attended the workshops, and an important element – role-play – was generally omitted by teachers.

Implementation Experiences

Keywords: 
No data

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