A randomized controlled trial of a trauma-informed school prevention program for urban youth: Rationale, design, and methods

Contemp Clin Trials. 2020 Mar:90:105895. doi: 10.1016/j.cct.2019.105895. Epub 2019 Nov 28.


Introduction: Youth in disadvantaged urban areas are frequently exposed to chronic stress and trauma, including housing instability, neighborhood violence, and other poverty-related adversities. These exposures increase risk for emotional, behavioral, and academic problems and ultimately, school dropout. Schools are a promising setting in which to address these issues; however, there are few universal, trauma-informed school-based interventions for urban youth.

Methods/design: Project POWER (Promoting Options for Wellness and Emotion Regulation) is a randomized controlled trial testing the impact of RAP Club, a trauma-informed intervention for eighth graders that includes mindfulness as a core component. Students in 32 urban public schools (n = 800) are randomly assigned to either RAP Club or a health education active control group. We assess student emotional, behavioral, and academic outcomes using self-report surveys and teacher ratings at baseline, post-intervention, and 4-month follow up. Focus groups and interviews with students, teachers, and principals address program feasibility, acceptability, and fidelity, as well as perceived program impacts. Students complete an additional self-report survey in ninth grade. Schools provide students' academic and disciplinary data for their seventh, eighth, and ninth grade years. In addition, data on program costs are collected to conduct an economic analysis of the intervention and active control programs.

Discussion: Notable study features include program co-leadership by young adults from the community and building capacity of school personnel for continued program delivery. In addition to testing program impact, we will identify factors related to successful program implementation to inform future program use and dissemination.

Keywords: Middle school; Mindfulness; Prevention; School-based intervention; Trauma.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial Protocol
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Academic Success
  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Behavior
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health*
  • Mindfulness / methods*
  • Poverty
  • Psychological Trauma / therapy*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Research Design
  • School Health Services / organization & administration*
  • Self Efficacy
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Urban Population
  • Violence