IPSY - life skills training with discussions on school context and learning climate
At a glance
Country of origin
The life skills programme IPSY (Information + Psychosocial Competence = Protection) is a comprehensive programme for the prevention of adolescent misuse of licit substances such as alcohol and tobacco. It follows a universal programme strategy, combining the promotion of generic intra- and interpersonal life skills with training in skills related to substance use. Moreover, it transmits knowledge concerning alcohol and tobacco use as well as about advertising strategies and structuring one’s leisure time. IPSY also includes lessons explicitly focusing on school; these modules aim to encourage the participation of the students in discussions on school-related issues. The basic manual was designed for students in grade 5 (10 years old) and consists of 15 lessons lasting either 90 or 45 minutes with two booster sessions, each consisting of seven lessons, for grades 6 and 7 (11-12 years old). The programme takes place in schools and is implemented by teachers who have participated in a one-day facilitator training course before the implementation of the programme each year.
Links to this programme in other registries
Implementation ExperiencesRead the experiences of people who have implemented this programme.
Department of Developmental Psychology
Centre for Applied Developmental Science (CADS)
University of Jena
Telephone: +49 0 3641 945921
Fax: +42 0 3641 945202
Overview of results from the European studies
The programme has been evaluated in three longitudinal quasi-experimental studies (and a 4.5 year follow-up study) in Germany, involving children with a mean age of about 10 years, one cluster randomised controlled trial (RCT) conducted across Germany and Italy, involving children with a mean age of about 11 years, and one quasi-experimental design in Italy and Germany.
In one of the quasi-experimental studies in Germany, there was a statistically significant positive impact on 30-day self-reported frequencies of beer, wine and mixed drinks consumption at one and two year follow-ups (but not at post-test). Two years after the booster sessions of the programme ended (four years after the programme ended), there was a statistically significant effect favouring the intervention in terms of reduced smoking and illicit drug use but no effect on alcohol consumption.
The other German study compared a teacher-led and a student-led version of the intervention to a control condition. At post-test, the frequency and prevalence of self-reported alcohol use was higher in the peer-led version, compared to the teacher-led version and the control condition (this difference was statistically significant). There was no intervention effect on resistance skills towards the offer of alcoholic drinks by peers, and there was also no effect on smoking at post-test. However, students’ expectations about whether they would use cigarettes regularly in the future were lower in students in the teacher-led condition compared to those in the peer-led and control conditions. In addition, students who participated in the teacher-led version of the programme became more resistant to offers of cigarettes (but not alcoholic drinks) compared to students in the other two conditions. Two years after the intervention, the effects were similar. These effects were statistically significant.
The third longitudinal evaluation used a quasi-experimental design (2015) among 1,657 students form Thuringia, Germany. The intervention effects were analysed over a 3-year study interval from ages 10 to 13, covering a life phase when smoking is frequently initiated in the context and under the influence of peers. This study showed that the intervention reduced the age-typical increase in smoking frequency during early adolescence. In addition, it revealed that resistance to peer pressure seems to reflect a major protective factor for smoking in early adolescence. There was a small but substantial effect of intervention. IPSY participants had a slower increase in yielding to peer pressure (ES = .20), and there was an indirect effect on tobacco use (ES = .12).
Finally, in the German follow-up study: the programme was evaluated over 4,5 years based on a longitudinal quasi-experimental design with an experimental and a control group and included 2 follow ups. 1657 German students from 40 schools with a mean age of 10.5 years were included. The programme was proven to be an effective tool for preventing tobacco use and increasing proneness to illicit drug (cannabis and ecstasy) use during adolescence. Moreover, the frequency of alcohol use was also affected during the time of the programme but diminished 2 years later. Even though the programme was effective the study suggest that it is necessary to implement booster sessions in later adolescence.
In the cross-country RCT, the programme had a positive effect on some alcohol-related outcomes in Germany at post-test; specifically, there was a statistically significant effect favouring the intervention on self-reported expected alcohol use during the next 12 months. However, there were no statistically significant differences between conditions at post-test in: self-reported positive cognition towards alcohol use; self-reported 30-day frequency of beer, wine, mixed drinks or spirits; and self-reported consumption quantity of beer, wine, mixed drinks or spirits. There was also a statistically significant effect favouring the intervention in Germany at post-test on three out of nine variables measuring relevant risk and protective factors: resistance to peer pressure; knowledge of assertive behaviours; and school involvement. There were no statistically significant effects on the other six variables: self concept of assertiveness towards groups; self concept of appreciation from others; self concept of general self-esteem; self concept of general problem solving; knowledge of speaker rules; and knowledge of listener rules. There was also a one-year follow-up (participants in the intervention condition were offered seven booster sessions during this period), at which point there was a statistically significant effect favouring the intervention on knowledge of assertive behaviours, resistance/susceptibility to peer pressure, school involvement, expected regular alcohol use during the next 12 months and 30-day frequency of wine consumption.
In the sample in Italy, there was a statistically significant effect at post-test favouring the intervention on consumption quantity of wine, but there were no effects on any of the other seven behaviour variables or the nine variables representing relevant risk and protective factors. There were no effects on any outcome at follow-up.
The second evaluation study in Germany and Italy (2016) used a quasi-experimental design, with one-year follow up. The study sample was composed of 1131 German adolescents with a mean age of 10.45 years, and 159 Italian adolescents with a mean age of 11.14 years. This study demonstrated that the adolescents that received IPSY showed a less steep increase of alcohol use one year after the implementation in both countries, compared to control groups. Also, the program positively affected students’ behaviours and skills that represent prominent protective factors against substance use. German participants increased their knowledge about assertiveness, resistance to peer pressure, and school bonding, and Italian students increased their assertiveness skills. The IPSY programme decreased the expected alcohol consumption in German adolescents, and decreased the consumption of wine in Italian adolescents. The study suggests that life skills-based programmes may be a useful tool in a broader European context.
Countries where evaluated
Protective factor(s) addressed
- Individual and peers: refusal skills and decision making
Risk factor(s) addressed
- No defined risk factors
- Alcohol use
- Use of illicit drugs
- Smoking (tobacco)
Description of programme
The life skills programme IPSY is a comprehensive programme for the prevention of adolescent misuse of licit substances such as alcohol and tobacco. It is based on the World Health Organization’s life skills approach, as well as on theories and empirical findings concerning the aetiology of adolescent substance use and associated risk and protection factors. It follows a universal programme strategy, combining the promotion of generic intra- and interpersonal life skills (e.g. communication skills, problem solving, coping with anxiety and stress, assertiveness, etc.) with training in skills related to substance use (e.g. refusal skills).
Moreover, it transmits knowledge concerning alcohol and tobacco use (e.g. the short-term consequences of substance use, actual prevalence rates) as well as about advertising strategies and structuring one’s leisure time. In addition, in contrast to many other life skills programmes, IPSY also includes lessons explicitly focusing on school, namely on students’ experiences in and their attitudes towards school, on positive and negative aspects of school and learning, and on learning methods and balancing school and leisure. These modules aim to encourage the participation of the students in discussions on school-related issues and to have positive influences on a school context and on school bonding.
The basic manual was designed for students in grade 5 (10 years old) and consists of 15 lessons lasting either 90 or 45 minutes with two booster sessions, each consisting of seven lessons, for grades 6 and 7 (11-12 years old). The programme takes place in schools and is implemented by teachers who have participated in a one-day facilitator training course before the implementation of the programme each year. IPSY uses interactive teaching methods (e.g. role-play, group discussions) that enable teachers and classmates to get to know each other and to establish close relationships. Furthermore, the programme focuses on positive reinforcement strategies and resource-oriented teaching.