What works in prevention. Principles of effective prevention programs

Am Psychol. Jun-Jul 2003;58(6-7):449-56. doi: 10.1037/0003-066x.58.6-7.449.


The high prevalence of drug abuse, delinquency, youth violence, and other youth problems creates a need to identify and disseminate effective prevention strategies. General principles gleaned from effective interventions may help prevention practitioners select, modify, or create more effective programs. Using a review-of-reviews approach across 4 areas (substance abuse, risky sexual behavior, school failure, and juvenile delinquency and violence), the authors identified 9 characteristics that were consistently associated with effective prevention programs: Programs were comprehensive, included varied teaching methods, provided sufficient dosage, were theory driven, provided opportunities for positive relationships, were appropriately timed, were socioculturally relevant, included outcome evaluation, and involved well-trained staff. This synthesis can inform the planning and implementation of problem-specific prevention interventions, provide a rationale for multi-problem prevention programs, and serve as a basis for further research.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Community Mental Health Services*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Juvenile Delinquency / prevention & control*
  • Juvenile Delinquency / statistics & numerical data
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care
  • Patient Care Team
  • Preventive Health Services*
  • Social Problems / prevention & control*
  • Social Problems / statistics & numerical data
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / prevention & control*
  • United States
  • Violence / prevention & control*
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data