Child & Youth Care Forum

, Volume 45, Issue 4, pp 607–624 | Cite as

Evaluation of a Life Skills Program to Prevent Adolescent Alcohol Use in Two European Countries: One-Year Follow-Up

  • Fabrizia Giannotta
  • Karina Weichold
Original Paper



Life skills programs are effective tools to combat youth substance use. However there is a lack of studies concerning their effectiveness in Europe.


This study investigated the 1 year follow up effects and the program implementation of a life skills school-based intervention (IPSY: Information + Psychosocial Competence = Protection) aimed at preventing alcohol use, in German and Italian adolescents.


Participants were 1131 German (57 % intervention group, mean age 10.45 years, 54 % females), and 159 Italian adolescents (45 % intervention group, mean age 11.14 years, 50 % females). Using a quasi-experimental design, data were gathered before the intervention (t1), after (2–7 months later, t2), and 1 year after the post-test (t3), thus covering a time span of about 1.5 years. MANOVAs and ANOVAs with repeated measurements were performed.


IPSY was well accepted in both the German and Italian schools. German and Italian youth who participated in the program decreased their consumption of wine. German youth who participated in the IPSY-program decreased their expected alcohol consumption and increased their knowledge of assertive behaviors, school involvement, and resistance to peer pressure, compared to the control group. Italian youth in the intervention group also increased in assertive behaviors and the perception of being appreciated by others, relative to the control group. In both countries, beer consumption, communication skills and problem solving were not affected.


Our study suggests that life skills-based programs may be a useful tool in the prevention of risk behaviors in adolescence in a broader European context.


Life skills Alcohol use Adolescence Cross-cultural Prevention 



The first author was in part funded by CRT, Cassa di Risparmio di Torino (Italy). We would like to express our gratitude to Prof. Rainer Silbereisen for his perceptive advice throughout this study and to Prof. Silvia Ciairano, who recently passed away, for having strongly supported the collaboration between researchers that made this paper possible and for the important suggestions she gave for this study. We thank Dr. Michael Spaeth for providing statistical consultations.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


  1. Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  2. Botvin, G. J. (2000). Preventing drug abuse in schools: Social and competence enhancement approaches targeting individual-level etiologic factors. Addictive Behaviors, 25(6), 887–897.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Botvin, G. J., Baker, E., Dusenbury, L., Botvin, E. M., & Diaz, T. (1995a). Long-term follow-up results of a randomized drug abuse prevention trial in a White middle-class population. Journal of the American Medical Association, 273, 1106–1112.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Botvin, G. J., Baker, E., Filazzola, A. D., & Botvin, E. M. (1990). A cognitive-behavioral approach to substance abuse prevention: One-year follow-up. Addictive Behaviors, 15(1), 47–63.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Botvin, G. J., Griffin, K. W., Diaz, T., Scheier, L. M., Williams, C., & Epstein, J. A. (2000). Preventing illicit drug use in adolescents: Long term follow-up data from a randomized control trial of a school population. Addictive Behaviors, 25(5), 769–774.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Botvin, G. J., Schinke, S. P., Epstein, J. A., Diaz, T., & Botvin, E. M. (1995b). Effectiveness of culturally focused and generic skills training approaches to alcohol and drug abuse prevention among minority adolescents: Two-year follow-up results. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 9(3), 183–194. doi: 10.1037/0893-164x.9.3.183.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brotherhood, A., Atkinson, A. M., Bates, G., & Sumnall, H. R. (2013). Adolescents as customers of addiction. ALICE RAP Deliverable 16.1, Work Package 16. Liverpool: Centre for Public Health.Google Scholar
  8. Caria, M. P., Faggiano, F., Bellocco, R., Galanti, M. R., & EU-Dap Study Group. (2011). Effects of a school-based prevention program on european adolescents’ patterns of alcohol use. Journal of Adolescent Health, 48(2), 182–188. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2010.06.003.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Catalano, R. F., Kosterman, R., Hawkins, J. D., Newcomb, M. D., & Abbott, R. D. (1996). Modeling the etiology of adolescent substance use: A test of the social development model. Journal of Drug Issues, 26(2), 429–455.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  10. Ciairano, S., Kliewer, W., & Rabaglietti, E. (2009). Adolescent risk behavior in Italy and the Netherlands. European Psychologist, 14(3), 180–192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Coffano, E. (2010). Guadagnare Salute in adolescenza: Ricognizione delle esperienze di prevenzione e promozione della salute in Italia Report Finale [Gaining Health: Experiences of prevention and health promotion in Italy, Final Report].
  12. Crone, M. R., Spruijt, R., Dijkstra, N. S., Willemsen, M. C., & Paulussen, T. G. W. M. (2011). Does a smoking prevention program in elementary schools prepare children for secondary school? Preventive Medicine, 52(1), 53–59. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2010.11.003.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Cuijpers, P. (2003). Three decades of drug prevention research. Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy, 10(1), 7–20. doi: 10.1080/0968763021000018900.Google Scholar
  14. de Vries, H., Dijk, F., Wetzels, J., Mudde, A., Kremers, S., Ariza, C., & Candel, M. (2006). The European Smoking Prevention Framework Approach (ESFA): Effects after 24 and 30 months. Health Education Research, 21(1), 116–132. doi: 10.1093/Her/Cyh048.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Derzon, J. H., Sale, E., Springer, J. F., & Brounstein, P. (2005). Estimating intervention effectiveness: Synthetic projection of field evaluation results. The Journal of Primary Prevention, 26(4), 321–343. doi: 10.1007/s10935-005-5391-5.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Deusinger, I. M. (Ed.). (1986). Die Frankfurter Selbstkonzeptskalen. Göttingen: Hogrefe.Google Scholar
  17. Ellickson, P. L., & Hays, R. D. (1992). On becoming involved with drugs: Modeling adolescent drug use over time. Health Psychology, 11(6), 377–385. doi: 10.1037/0278-6133.11.6.377.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Faggiano, F., Galanti, M. R., Bohrn, K., Burkhart, G., Vigna-Taglianti, F., Cuomo, L., & Wiborg, G. (2008a). The effectiveness of a school-based substance abuse prevention program: EU-Dap cluster randomised controlled trial. Preventive Medicine, 47(5), 537–543. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2008.06.018.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Faggiano, F., Minozzi, S., Versino, E., & Buscemi, D. (2014). Universal school-based prevention for illicit drug use. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 12.Google Scholar
  20. Faggiano, F., Vigna-Taglianti, F., Burkhart, G., Bohrn, K., Cuomo, L., Gregori, D., & Grp, E.-D. S. (2010). The effectiveness of a school-based substance abuse prevention program: 18-month follow-up of the EU-Dap cluster randomized controlled trial. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 108(1–2), 56–64. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2009.11.018.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Faggiano, F., Vigna-Taglianti, F. D., Versino, E., Zambon, A., Borraccino, A., & Lemma, P. (2008b). School-based prevention for illicit drugs use: A systematic review. Preventive Medicine, 46(5), 385–396.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Fend, H., & Schur, G. (1991). Schule und Persönlichkeitsentwicklung. [School and personality development]. Zürich: Universität [University of Zürich].Google Scholar
  23. Flay, B. R. (2009). School-based smoking prevention programs with the promise of long-term effects. Tobacco Induced Diseases, 5(6), 18.Google Scholar
  24. Fletcher, A., Bonell, C., & Hargreaves, J. (2008). School effects on young people’s drug use: A systematic review of intervention and observational studies. Journal of Adolescent Health, 42(3), 209–220. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2007.09.020.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Foxcroft, D. R., & Tsertsvadze, A. (2012). Cochrane review: Universal school-based prevention programs for alcohol misuse in young people. Evidence-Based Child Health: A Cochrane Review Journal, 7(2), 450–575.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hanewinkel, R., & Asshauer, M. (2004). Fifteen-month follow-up results of a school-based life-skills approach to smoking prevention. Health Education Research, 19(2), 125–137. doi: 10.1093/Her/Cyg018.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Hibell, B., Andersson, B., Bjarnason, T., Ahlström, S., Balakireva, O., Kokkevi, A., & Morgan, M. (2012). The ESPAD report 2011: Alcohol and drug use among students in 35 European countries. Stockholm, Sweden: Swedish Council for Information on Alcohol and other Drugs.Google Scholar
  28. Jessor, R., Donovan, J. E., & Costa, F. M. (Eds.). (1991). Beyond adolescence-problem behavior and young adult development. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Jessor, R., Turbin, M. S., Costa, F. M., Dong, Q., Zhang, H., & Wang, C. (2003). Adolescent problem behavior in China and the United States: A cross-national study of psychosocial protective factors. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 13(3), 329–360. doi: 10.1111/1532-7795.1303004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kersch, B., Petermann, H., & Fisher, V. (1998). Alkoholdistanz—Ein Evaluationskriterium schulischer Sucht- und Drogenprävention. Kindheit und Entwicklung, 7, 244–251.Google Scholar
  31. Kohli, M., Künemund, H., & Vogel, C. (2005). Family structure, proximity and contact. In A. Börsch-Supan (Ed.), Health, ageing and retirement in Europe—First results from the survey of health, ageing and retirement in Europe (pp. 164–170). Mannheim: MEA.Google Scholar
  32. Koumi, I., & Tsiantis, J. (2001). Smoking trends in adolescence: Report on a Greek school-based, peer-led intervention aimed at prevention. Health Promotion International, 16(1), 65–72. doi: 10.1093/heapro/16.1.65.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. La Torre, G., Chiaradia, G., Monte, L., Moretti, C., Mannocci, A., Capitanio, D., & Boccia, A. (2010). A randomised controlled trial of a school-based intervention to prevent tobacco use among children and adolescents in Italy. Journal of Public Health, 18(6), 533–542. doi: 10.1007/s10389-010-0328-8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Muthen, B. O., & Satorra, A. (1995). Complex sample data in structural equation modeling. Sociological Methodology, 25, 267–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Ndugwa, R., Kabiru, C., Cleland, J., Beguy, D., Egondi, T., Zulu, E., & Jessor, R. (2011). Adolescent problem behavior in Nairobi’s informal settlements: Applying problem behavior theory in sub-Saharan Africa. Journal of Urban Health, 88, 298–317. doi: 10.1007/s11524-010-9462-4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Resnicow, K., Soler, R., Braithwaite, R. L., Ahluwalia, J. S., & Butler, J. (2000). Cultural sensitivity in substance use prevention. Journal of Community Psychology, 28(3), 271–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Santor, D. A., Messervey, D., & Kusumakar, V. (2000). Measuring peer pressure, popularity, and conformity in adolescent boys and girls: Predicting school performance, sexual attitudes, and substance abuse. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 29(2), 163–182. doi: 10.1023/a:1005152515264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Scheier, L. M., Botvin, G. J., & Griffin, K. W. (2001). Preventive intervention effects on developmental progression in drug use: Structural equation modeling analyses using longitudinal data. Prevention Science, 2(2), 91–112. doi: 10.1023/a:1011543730566.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Skara, S., & Sussman, S. (2003). A review of 25 long-term adolescent tobacco and other drug use prevention program evaluations. Preventive Medicine, 37(5), 451–474. doi: 10.1016/s0091-7435(03)00166-x.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Spaeth, M., Weichold, K., Silbereisen, R. K., & Wiesner, M. (2010). Examining the differential effectiveness of a life skills program (IPSY) on alcohol use trajectories in early adolescence. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 78(3), 334–348.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  41. Thyer, B. A. (2012). Quasi-experimental research design. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Tobler, N. S. (2000). Lessons learned. The Journal of Primary Prevention, 20(4), 261–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Tobler, N. S., Roona, M. R., Ochshorn, P., Marshall, D. G., Streke, A. V., & Stackpole, K. M. (2000). School-based adolescent drug prevention programs: 1998 meta-analysis. The Journal of Primary Prevention, 20(4), 275–336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Vazsonyi, A. T., Chen, P., Jenkins, D. D., Burcu, E., Torrente, G., & Sheu, C. (2010). Jessor’s problem behavior theory: Cross-national evidence from Hungary, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, and the United States. Developmental Psychology, 46(6), 1779–1791. doi: 10.1037/a0020682.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Weichold, K. (2014). Translation of aetiology into evidence-based prevention: The life skills program IPSY. New Directions for Youth Development, 141, 83–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Weichold, K., & Blumenthal, A. (2016). Long-term effects of the life skills program IPSY on substance use: Results of a 4.5 yr. Longitudinal study. Prevention Science, 17(1), 13–23. doi: 10.1007/s11121-015-0576-5.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Weichold, K., Brambosch, A., & Silbereisen, R. K. (2012). Do girls profit more? Gender-specific effectiveness of a life skills program against alcohol consumption in early adolescence. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 32(2), 200–225. doi: 10.1177/0272431610384489.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Weichold, K., Giannotta, F., Silbereisen, R. K., Ciairano, S., & Wenzel, V. (2006). Cross-cultural evaluation of a life-skills programme to combat adolescent substance misuse. SUCHT—Zeitschrift für Wissenschaft und Praxis/Journal of Addiction Research and Practice, 52(4), 268–278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Wenzel, V., Weichold, K., & Silbereisen, R. K. (2009). The life skills program IPSY: Positive influences on school bonding and prevention of substance misuse. Journal of Adolescence, 32(6), 1391–1401. doi: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2009.05.008.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. WHO. (1997). Life skills education in schools. Geneva: World Health Organization.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Uppsala Child and Baby Lab, Department of PsychologyUppsala UniversityUppsalaSweden
  2. 2.Department of Developmental Psychology, Center for Applied Developmental Science (CADS)University of JenaJenaSweden

Personalised recommendations