A Review of the Evidence on the Effects of Community-based Programs on Young People’s Social and Emotional Skills Development

Margaret M. Barry*, Aleisha M. Clarke, Silvia E. Morreale, Catherine Anne Field

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


There is a growing body of international research which shows that social and emotional skills development programs lead to positive outcomes on a range of educational, health, social and behavioral outcomes for young people. However, the evidence is less well developed outside of the US and there is, therefore, a need to determine how well these programs can be implemented and scaled up in other countries and policy contexts. This review provides a narrative synthesis of the evidence on the effectiveness of community-based interventions for enhancing young people’s social and emotional skills in the UK. A range of electronic databases were searched and responses to a call for evidence to youth organizations were analysed. A total of 14 intervention studies employing experimental designs that were conducted in the UK in the period from 2004 to 2016 fulfilled the criteria and were selected for full review. Seven of the studies evaluated the impact of youth social action interventions, five focused on mentoring programs and two on community arts and sports interventions. Six of the intervention studies were conducted within the last 2 years, primarily with young people living in deprived communities, and five studies employed randomized control trials. The results indicate that there is a small number of robust evaluation studies that provide evidence of the impact of social action trials (N = 4) and mentoring programs (N = 2) on enhancing young people’s social and emotional skills, community engagement and reducing behavioral problems. However, none of the studies were rated as strong and eight studies received a weak quality rating indicating poor quality evidence of intervention effectiveness. The current evidence base needs to be strengthened to determine the effectiveness of community-based youth programs, including which intervention approaches are most effective, and their long-term impact and sustainability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-27
Number of pages15
JournalAdolescent Research Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018


  • Community youth programs
  • Evidence review
  • Program effectiveness
  • Social and emotional skills


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