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Children and Youth at Risk
Prevention & Intervention Approaches

Robin Wright, Ph.D
School of Social Work
McGill University

SWRK 648 (MSW)
SWRK 485/486 (BSW)

Course Description:

Social workers are the dominant profession involved in the provision of protection, treatment and care for the most vulnerable children and youth in our society. This course will provide a framework and a rationale to guide prevention and intervention efforts within community-based organizations (e.g., recreation and art programs), elementary and secondary schools and clinical settings for children youth and families.

Student Outcomes:

At the end of the course students will be able to:

• understand the children, youth and families most at risk
• understand the risk and protective factors at different stages in the developmental pathway;
• understand the most promising prevention and intervention models at these stages;
• understand the advantages and disadvantages of universal, targeted and clinical programs


Lectures, discussion, student presentations, small group


1. Class Presentations –30%

Each week starting in the fourth week (Oct. 3) students individually or in groups (to be determined based on class size) will present on the topics listed below. The presentations should be approximately 30 minutes in length allowing for a 15-20 minute discussion. Due date: According to sign up schedule. The presentations will be based on the assigned readings outlined in the reader.

The presentation must include the following:

  • the purpose/objective of the study;
  • a description of the developmental stage that is discussed in the article (s);
  • the risk factors that are targeted and the protective factors that the author(s) may be strengthening;
  • a description of the intervention with reference to whether it is a universal, targeted or clinical approach;
  • the location of the intervention, e.g., home, school, clinic, after school etc;
  • the results/findings and outcomes of the study;
  • the strengths and limitations of the study, and
  • the implications for practice, policy, and research

The following five criteria will be used to assess a grade for the class presentations: 1. Organization – 10%; 2. Content – 8%; 3. Quality of arguments- 5%; 4. General/specific-5%; 5. Creativity-2%

2. A written proposal for paper- 20%

On or before October 17 each student will submit a 2-3 page proposal with a bibliography outlining the topic to be developed as a base for the term paper due in the last class.

3. Paper – 50% Due date: Nov. 28 in class

Development of a written paper of approximately 15-20 pages in length.

The paper must address the following:

A. Select a group of children/youth/ families at risk from one of the two categories discussed in class- those with externalizing problems or those with internalizing problems. Justify your choice based on epidemiological data (burden of suffering- prevalence, severity, cost).

B. Select the developmental stage in the developmental pathway: Prenatal/infancy (0-2yrs.); preschool(2-5 yrs.); elementary school age (5-12 yrs.) ; High School or Adolescence (13-18 yrs.). Provide a rationale for choosing the particular stage.

C. Propose an intervention to address the child/youth/family at risk by:

1. Describing if it is a universal, targeted, or clinical approach and the
strengths and limitations of the approach;
2. Describe the intervention – is it single component, multicomponent?
and justify;
3. Describe the intervention site- community-based organization,
clinic/agency/institution, school-based/after- school ;Why is this
particular site appropriate for the delivery of the intervention.
4. Is it individual/ family/ or group focused? Why?
5. Include a rationale from the literature reviewed why this appears to be the most promising approach for the child/youth/family you are interested in . Make sure your rationale is based on known effective approaches or efficacious approaches or a promising approach that may not have good evidence yet.

D. Evaluation Procedure
E. Implications for practice , policy, future research
F. Conclusion

Late Assignments will be penalized by 2% per day.

Recommended Text:

Kazdin, A. (1995) Conduct Disorders in Childhood and Adolescence. 2nd edition. Sage Publications. Available in the McGill Bookstore.

Fleming, J. & Sanford, M. (1998). Adolescent Depression. A Practitioner’s Manual. Canadian Centre for Studies of Children at Risk. Hamilton, Ontario. (handout)

Additional Texts:

Olweus, D. (1993) Bullying at school. Blackwell Publishers.

Cartledge, G & Milburn, J. (1995) Teaching social skills to children and youth: Innovative approaches. Allyn & Bacon. Boston, MA.

McCord , J. & Tremblay, R. (1992). Preventing antisocial behaviour.
Interventions from birth through adolescence. New York: Guilford Press.

Webster-Stratton, C. (1992) The incredible years: A trouble shooting guide for parents of children age 3-8. Umbrella Press. Toronto.

Stoff, D Breiling, D& Maser,J. (1997), Handbook of antisocial behaviour. N.Y: Wiley.

Peters, R & McMahon, R. (1996), Preventing Childhood Disorders, Substance Abuse, and Delinquency. CA: Sage Publications.

W.M. Reynolds and H.F. Johnston (1997) Handbook of depression in children and adolescents. NY: Plenum Press.

Henggeler, S. et al. (2002) Serious emotional disturbance in children and adolescents. New York: Guilford.

Course Schedule

September 5: Lecture
Topic: Introduction

  • Review of course schedule, expectations and assignments
  • Overview of children and youth at risk in Canada


Ontario Child Health Survey: Summary of Initial Findings. Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services. Queen’s Printer for Ontario.


September 12: Lecture
Topic: Defining Prevention

  • Introduction to the concept of prevention
  • Advantages & disadvantages of universal, targeted and clinical programs
  • Definition & characteristics of children and youth with conduct problems, ADHD
  • Definition & characteristics of children and youth with depression


Offord, D. (1996). The state of prevention and early intervention. In R. Peters & R McMahon (eds), Preventing Childhood Disorders, Substance Abuse, and Delinquency. CA: Sage Publications:. 329-344.

Kiselica, M. (2001) Overcoming barriers to the practice of primary prevention: An Agenda for the mental health professions. Prevention & Treatment. 4 (8).

Kazdin, A. (1995). Conduct Disorders in Childhood & Adolescence.
? Chpt. 1- Introduction and nature of the problem. pp. 1-20
? Chpt. 5- Prevention. pp. 100-121.

Fleming, J. & Sanford, M. (1998). Adolescent Depression. A Practitioner’s Manual. Canadian Centre for Studies of Children at Risk. Hamilton, Ontario.

Hudley, C. (2001). The role of culture in prevention research. Prevention & Treatment. 4, 5.

September 19: Lecture
Topic: Risk Factors, Protective Factors & Resiliency

  • Introduction to the concept of risk and protective factors
  • Risk factors and their operation
  • Protective factors and their operation

Kazdin, A (1995)
? Chpt. 3- Risk Factors, Onset, and Course of Dysfunction

Rae-Grant, N. et al. (1989). Risk & protective factors and the prevalence of behavioral and emotional disorders in children and adolescents. J. Am. Acad. Child Adolesc. Psychiatry. 28:262-268.

Rutter, M. (1987). Psychosocial resilience and protective factors. Amer. J. Orthopsychiat. 57 (3): 316-331.

Werner, E.E. (1990). Protective factors and individual resilence. In Samuel J. Meisels and Jack P. ShouKoff (eds.) Cambridge University Press. New York: 97-116.

September 26: Lecture
Topic: Externalizing Behaviours


1. Assessment

Kazdin, A. (1995)
Chpt. 2 – Diagnosis & Assessment.

2. Theoretical Frameworks

Dishion, T. & Patterson, G. (1997)The timing and severity of antisocial behaviour: Three hypotheses within an ecological framework. In D. Stoff, J. Breiling & J. Maser (eds), Handbook of antisocial behaviour. N.Y. Wiley: 205-215.

3. Developmental Pathway

Reid, J.B. & Eddy, M.J. (1997). The prevention of antisocial behaviour. Some considerations in the search for effective interventions. In D. Stoff, J. Breiling & J. Maser (eds), Handbook of antisocial behaviour. N.Y. Wiley.: 205-217.

PART TWO: Programs that focus on Externalizing Behaviours

October 3: Externalizing Behaviours: Presentation
Topic: Prenatal/Infancy (0-2years)


Kazdin, A. (1995)
Chpt. 5 – Prevention

Olds, D.L., et al. (1986). Preventing Child Abuse and neglect. A randomized trial of nurse home visitation. Pediatrics, 78, 65-78.

Weikart, D. & Schweinhart, L. (1992) High/scope preschool program outcomes. In J. McCord & R. Tremblay (eds.), Preventing antisocial behaviour. Guilford Press. New York: 67-86. Also see

See Aboriginal Head Start @

Guest Speaker: Dr. Mark Zoccolio
Topic: Prevention of conduct disorder

October 10: Presentations
Topic: Early Childhood (2-5 years)


Cunningham, C.E., Bremner et al. (1995). Large group community-based parenting programs for families of preschoolers at risk for disruptive behaviour disorders. J. Child Psychol Psychiatry 7, 1141-59.


1. The Community Parent Education (COPE) program – Developed by Dr. C. Cunningham – 30 minutes.
2. The Community Parent Education Program –Leader Training – 80 minutes

Oct. 17 : Externalizing Behaviours - Presentations
Topic: Elementary School-based Interventions, Single Component


1. Cognitive-behavioural or Social Cognitive interventions

Kazdin, A. (1995)
Chpt. 4- Current Treatments pp. 79-82

(i) Anger Coping:
Lochman, J. & Burch et al. (1984) Treatment and generalization effects of cognitive-behavioural and goal setting interventions with aggressive boys. J. Consult Clin Psychol 52 (5): 915-6.

Lochman, J. , et al. (1993). Effectiveness of a Social Relations Intervention Program for Aggressive and Nonaggressive, Rejected Children. Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology 61 (6): 1053-58.

(ii) Peer Mediation:
Cunningham, C., et al. (1998). The effects of Primary Division, Student-Mediated Conflict Resolution Programs on Playground Aggression. J. Child Psychol. Psychiatr, 39, 5: 653-662.

(iii) Peer Coping Skills Training:
Prinz, R.J. et al. (1994) An evaluation of peer coping skills for childhood aggression. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 23: 193-203.

(iv) Social Skills Training
Peplar, D. et al. (1994) an evaluation of an anti-bullying intervention in Toronto schools. Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health, 13 (2) 95-110.

Grossman, D.C (1997). Effectiveness of a violence prevention curriculum among children in elementary school. A randomized controlled trial. Jama. 277 (20): 1605-11.

(v) Parent Training
Kazdin, A. (1995)
Chpt. 4 – Current Treatments pp. 82-86

Patterson, G.R. Chamberlain, P. et al. (1982). A comparative evaluation of a parent training program. Behaviour Therapy. 13:638-650.

Webster-Stratton, C. Hammond, M. (1997). Treating children with early –onset conduct problems: a comparison of child and parent training interventions. J.Consult. Clin. Psychol 65(1): 93-109.

October 24: Elementary and Middle Schools : Presentation
Topic: 1. Multicomponent Interventions

Elementary School:
Boyle, M. et al. (1999). Helping children adjust- A Tri-ministry Study: Evaluation Methodology. Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry & Allied Disciplines. 40 (7): 1051-60.

Tremblay, Richard E., Masse, Louise, Pagani, Linda, & Vitaro, Frank (1996). From childhood physical aggression to adolescent maladjustment: The Montreal Prevention Experiment. In R. D. Peters & R. J. McMahon (eds.), Preventing Childhood Disorders, Substance Abuse, and Delinquency. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications:268-298.

Middle School:

Hawkins, J.D. et al. (1992) The Seattle Social Development Project: Effects of the first four Years on protective factors and problem behaviours. The prevention of antisocial behaviour in children. N.Y. Guilford Press: 139-161

Cunningham, P. et al. (2001). Implementation of an empirically based drug and violence prevention and intervention program in public school settings. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology. 30:221-232.

Topic: 2. Adolescence: High School/Secondary School Interventions

Andrews, D.W. (1995) The adolescent transitions program for high risk teens and their parents: Toward a school-based intervention. Education & Treatment of Children. 18 (4): 478-98.

Botvin, G.J. et al. (1990) Preventing Adolescent Drug Abuse through a multimodal cognitive-behavioural approach: Results of a 3-year study. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 58(4): 437-36.

Hammond, W.R.& Yung, B.R. (1991) Preventing violence in at-risk african -american youth. Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved 2(3): 359-73.

Olweus, D (1994) Bullying at school: basic facts and effects of a school-based intervention program. The development and treatment of childhood aggression. K.R.D. Peplar. Hillsdale, NJ, Erlbaum: 411-448.

Topic: 3. Community-based: Lecture:Recreation/Art Programs: Lecture

Jones, M.B. & Offord, D.R. (1989). Reduction of antisocial behaviour in poor
children by non-school skill development. Journal of Child Psychology and
Psychiatry, 30:737-750.

Offord, D. et al. (1998) Sports, the arts, and community programs: Rates and
correlates of participation. HRDC (in engineering).

Wright, R. & John, L. (2002) The National Art and Youth Demonstration Project.

Video: Summer Camp Programs: A Gift of Summer

October 31: Treatment Approaches: Presentations
Topic: 1. Family Therapy

Kazdin, A. (1995)
Chpt. 4- Current Treatments -See Functional Family Therapy & Multisystemic Therapy

Topic: 2. Day Treatment

Grizenko, N. (1993) Effectiveness of a multimodal day treatment program for children with disruptive behaviour problems. J. Am. Acad. Child Adolesc. Psychiatry, 32:1

Topic: 3. Residential Treatment

Chamberlain, P. & Friman P.C (1997) Residential programs for antisocial children & adolescents. In D. Stoff, J. Breiling & J. Maser (eds), Handbook of antisocial behaviour. N.Y. Wiley. 416-424.

Topic: 4: Young Offenders

Henggeler, S. et al. (1997). Multisystemic therapy with violent and chronic juvenile offenders and their families: The role of treatment fidelity in successful dissemination. J. Consul Clin Psychol 65(5): 821-33.


Nov. 7: Topic: Lecture

1. Assessment

Fleming, J. & Sanford, M. (1998). Adolescent Depression. A Practitioner’s Manual. Canadian Centre for Studies of Children at Risk. Hamilton, Ontario.

2. Theoretical Frameworks

Bemporad, J.R. (1994). Dynamic and Interpersonal Theories of Depression. Handbook of depression in children and adolescents. In W.M. Reynolds and H.F. Johnston. NY, Plenum Press: 81-95.

Kaslow et al.(1994) Cognitive and behavioral correlates of childhood depression: A developmental perspective. Handbook of depression in children and adolescents. NY: Plenum Press.

3. Developmental Pathway

Cicchetti, F.P. & Toth, S.L. (1999)The development of depression in children and adolescents. Am Psychol 53(2): 221-41.


November 14: Presentations
Topic: Universal & Targeted Approaches

Readings: Universal Approaches

Schochet, M. et al. (2001) The efficacy of a universal school-based program to prevent adolescent depression. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology. 303) 303-315.

Randell, B. P. et al. (2001) Immediate post intervention effects of two brief youth suicide prevention interventions. Suicide & Life Threatening Behaviour 31 (1): 41-61.

Readings: Targeted Approaches

Clarke,G. et al. (1995) Targeted prevention of unipolar depressive disorder in an at risk sample of high school adolescents: a randomized trial of a group of cognitive interventions. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. 34 (3): 312-21.

Beardslee, W. et al. (1997) Examination of children’s responses to two preventive intervention strategies over time. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 36, 196-204.

Guest Speaker: Bill Ryan,MSW
Topic: HIV prevention
See: Ryan, W. (1998) Hiv prevention: Safe spaces: Hiv prevention for gay , lesbian and bisexual youth. Canadian Public Health. (in engineering)

November 21: Clinical Approaches : Presentations

Topic: 1. Interpersonal Psychotherapy for Depressed Adolescents


Mufson, L. et al. (1993) The origins and development of Interpersonal Psychotherapy for depression. In L. Mufson, D. Moreau, M. Weissman, & G. Klerman (eds.) Interpersonal Psychotherapy for depressed adolescents. Guilford Press. New York, 3-35.

Topic: 2: Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT)


Lewinsohn, P.M. & Clarke (1999) Psychosocial treatments for adolescent depression. Clin Psychol. 19 (3) 329-42.

Topic: 3: Group Therapy


Lewinsohn, P.M. et al. (1994) Psychological approaches to the treatment of depression in adolescents. In W.M. Reynolds & H.E. Johnson (eds.), Handbook of Depression in Children & Adolescents, Plenum Press, New York, 309-344.

Fine, S. et al. (1991) Group therapy for adolescent depressive disorder: a comparison of social skills and therapeutic support. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 30, 79-85.

November 28: Family Therapy ,Medication, Exercise: Presentations
Last Class: Paper Due

Topic: 1. Family Approaches


Brent, D. A. et al. (1997) A clinical psychotherapy trial for adolescent depression comparing cognitive, family, and supportive therapy. Archives of General Psychiatry, 54, 877-885.

Morton, P. & Maharaj, S. (1993) Family Factors in adolescent unipolar depression. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 38, 373-382.

Johnston, H. & Fruehling, J. (1994). Pharmacotherapy for depression in children and adolescents. In W.M. Reynolds & H.E. Johnson (eds.), Handbook of Depression in Children & Adolescents, New York, Plenum Press: 365-397.

Yeung, R.R. et al. (1996) The acute effects of exercise on mood state. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 40, 123-141.

Brown, al. (1992) Aerobic exercise in the psychological treatment of adolescents. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 74:555-560.

Topic 2: Future directions


Kazdin, A. (1995)
Chpt. 6: New directions for research

Myers, LL, & Thyer, B. (1997) Should social work clients have the right to effective treatment? Social Work 42 (3) 288-98.


  • Psychinfo
  • Social Science Abstracts
  • Sociological Abstracts
  • Contents First (table of contents of journals)
  • Education Abstracts (Eric)
  • Medline or PubMed

Web Pages

  • Canadian Council on Social Development
  • Centers for Disease Control, and Prevention
  • Society for Prevention Research
  • Early Career Preventionists Network
  • The Collaborative for Social & Emotional Learning
  • Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence: Oregon Social Learning Center
  • NIMH Prevention Research Center

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