Community-Wide Effort May Help Tame Troubled Teens

Towns using 'Communities That Care' system saw decrease in vandalism, theft, study finds

FRIDAY, Oct. 7 (HealthDay News) -- A community-based prevention system may lead to lasting reductions in teen smoking, drinking, violence and other bad behavior, according to a new study.

The Communities That Care system helps communities choose programs that have been shown to be effective in preventing teen problems.

The system was developed by University of Washington researchers, who conducted the study that looked at the behaviors of more than 4,400 youngsters in 24 small- to moderate-sized towns in Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Oregon, Utah and Washington.

Half the towns received training in the Communities That Care system. In those towns, students in grades 5 to 9 participated in programs designed to reduce risk factors such as family conflict and school difficulties. The behavior of all the students in the study was assessed when they were in grade 10.

Those in towns using the Communities That Care system were less likely to have tried smoking or drinking than those in towns that did not use the system. Delinquent behaviors, such as vandalism, theft and fighting, also decreased among teens in towns that used the system.

The study was published online Oct. 3 in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

"What's exciting about this paper is that these decreases in alcohol use, smoking and violence were apparent even after outside support for the Communities That Care system ended. It shows that community coalitions can make a sustained difference in their youngsters' health community-wide," lead author J. David Hawkins, founding director of UW's Social Development Research Group, said in a university news release.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more about teen behavior.

Robert Preidt SOURCE: University of Washington, news release, Oct. 3, 2011

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