What works for boys.

You may remember that one of the weaknesses that the EMCDDA found when looking at prevention approaches here and across Europe was that we don’t do enough to work on approaches that recognise that different genders respond differently to drug prevention.  So when one of my go to sources for evidence based thinking about young people, Child Trends, produced a short briefing on approaches that have been shown to work for boys I was happy to see they’ve taken a look at substance misuse amongst a range of problematic behaviours that can affect young people.

Their reading of the evidence base suggests that the following have been shown to work more times than it has failed.

  • Manualised interventions for male children and adolescents.
  • Heavy focus on health consequences of substance use.
  • Self-esteem building activities.
  • Brief interventions for college-age adolescents.

The focus on health consequences surprises me given that this can so often come across as scare tactics, but they found that nine of the 13 programmes that had placed considerable emphasis on making sure that participants understand the negative impact of substances had a positive effect on boys outcomes.

Interesting one of the programmes they cite is the winner of an Mentor International award.

The paper goes on to look at what has a more mixed track record.  Here they say:

Programs that target multiple risky behaviors, such as reproductive health, delinquency and academics, resulted in mixed impacts on substance use outcomes. Of the fourteen programs, only seven worked.

Finally they turn to the approach that has not been successful and here they say:

Interventions that target multiple outcomes, such as job training, health care, and residential living tend to not have positive impacts on substance use outcomes for male children or adolescents. Out of all fifteen programs that worked, none were multi-tier interventions. More importantly, of the six multi-tier programs, none worked to improve substance use outcomes.