Category: Child / Adolescent - School-Related Issues
The FRIENDS for Life (FFL) program is a school-based, universal anxiety prevention program (Barrett, 2004) designed to target anxious symptomatology and increase prosocial behaviours in children. Social validity (Wolf, 1978) refers to the social or "real world” relevance of a program. Research regarding social validity of mental health programming is important to inform treatment development and dissemination. For educators, social validity research may be especially important in helping to decide which mental health programs will be implemented in their schools. The present study examined social validity of the FFL program in ten elementary schools in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. It was hypothesized that both student participants and their parents would rate the program as being useful for student’s everyday life.
Data were collected from 97 students aged 8 (4.10%, n = 4), 9 (25.8%, n = 25), and 10 (71.1%, n = 68). Students were in grades four (21.6%, n = 21) and five (78.4%, n = 76) with 43.3% (n = 42) male and 56.7% (n = 55) female. The majority (97.9%, n = 93) of student participants identified as White. Parents’ (n = 53) ages ranged from 27 to 52 years (M = 40.66, SD = 5.66) with 88.7% (n = 47) female, 1.90% (n = 1) male, and 9.4% (n = 5) “other”. Both child and parent participants were administered a battery of measures one week before and one week after the child’s completion of the FFL program. The FFL Social Validity Questionnaire (SVQ; Barrett, Shortt, Fox, & Wescombe, 2001) was administered at post-test to both child and parent participants. This measure was developed to assess child and parent perspectives of how effective, useful, and enjoyable FFL and its skills were for the student. The FFL SVQ has been employed in numerous FFL evaluation studies (Ahlen, Breitholz, Barrett, & Gallegos, 2012; Barrett et al., 2001; Essau, Conradt, & Ederer, 2004; Gallegos, Rodriguez, Gómez, Rabelo, & Gutiérrez, 2012).
Descriptive frequency analyses showed student participants found techniques of “relaxation” (n = 76), “deep breathing” (n = 68), and “helping others to feel good” (n = 67) most useful to them in their everyday lives. About half (55.7%, n = 54) of students enjoyed FFL a lot, 71.4% (n = 70) reported learning a lot about feelings, and 68.0% (n = 68) reported learning a lot about how to cope when feeling upset. Parents reported somewhat less positive evaluations; 30.0% (n = 16) reported their child enjoyed FFL a lot, 45.8% (n = 24) reporting that their child learned a lot about feelings, and 28.6% (n = 15) reported that FFL taught their child how to cope with their feelings.
Present results suggest discrepancies in child and parent perceptions of the real-world usefulness of FFL. Although child data are consistent with previous FFL social validity research, parent participants in the present study were considerably less favorable toward the program than parents in previous investigations. This could be due to a lack of parent involvement in the present sample (i.e. lack of parent psychoeducation of FFL, parent-related FFL homework). For educators, results may indicate a need for additional parent involvement when FFL is implemented in their school.