The Connection Project: A Social Intervention to Reduce Drivers of Disparity for Disadvantaged Youth

Does a school-based intervention to enhance students’ social support reduce racial and socioeconomic inequalities in academic, behavioral, and health outcomes?

Research suggests that a lack of strong peer connections in adolescence is linked to school dropout, risky sexual behavior and substance use. In this study, the investigators will explore whether relationships can help buffer African American adolescents in low-resource communities from social risk factors, such as social isolation and alienation, which can lead to negative long-term outcomes, including academic and behavioral problems and physical and mental health issues. The study will extend the team’s prior intervention work to activate care, connection, and support for youth at risk of academic and behavioral problems in order to decrease depression and increase sense of self-worth. Unlike the few existing social-emotional learning programs for adolescents, this program is experiential in approach, rather than facilitator-driven. The team will use a multi-site, randomized design of 864 10th and 11th graders that draws from academic records, participants’ self-reports of overall health, and teacher reports of participants’ disruptive behavior. Students will either receive regular schooling or an intervention consisting of twelve 45-to 60- minute sessions that build teenagers’ capacity to give and get social support. Student perceptions of support, connectedness, and negative peer interactions during the sessions will be measured.