Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 743–757 | Cite as

An Evaluation of the Effectiveness of the Personal Leadership Program Designed to Promote Positive Outcomes for Adolescents

  • Rachel M. RobertsEmail author
  • Lorna Fawcett
  • Amelia Searle
Research Paper


While meta-analytic reviews of universal school-based social and emotional interventions indicate overall effectiveness, outcome effect sizes are often small. We report an evaluation of a high school-based Personal Leadership Program, designed to promote positive social, emotional, and motivational outcomes. Program and comparison group participants (n = 102) from South Australian high schools completed pre- and post-program measures of positive functioning: positive emotion, behavioral engagement, positive relations, meaning, and accomplishment, as well as self-esteem and goal setting. Additionally, teacher-reported student engagement was assessed. Program participants demonstrated greater improvement than the comparison group on all variables. Mixed between-within subjects ANOVAs, showed statistically significant time-by-group interactions for six out of nine variables, the exceptions being relationship with parents, relationship with classmates, and accomplishment. There were medium effect sizes for student- and teacher-rated engagement, and large effect sizes for positive emotion, meaning, self-esteem and goal setting. With findings demonstrating improvements in positive functioning across a range of measures of wellbeing this approach to building wellbeing in adolescents, drawing on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and goal setting theory should be further investigated using randomized control trials.


Adolescents Intervention Social Emotional Motivational Wellbeing School 



The cooperation of the Youth Opportunities Association (SA) Inc. is acknowledged.


  1. Banke-Thomas, A. O., Madaj, B., Charles, A., & van den Broek, N. (2015). Social Return on Investment (SROI) methodology to account for value for money of public health interventions: A systematic review. BMC Public Health, 15, 582. Scholar
  2. Booth, M. Z., & Gerard, J. M. (2011). Self-esteem and academic achievement: A comparative study of adolescent students in England and the United States. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 41, 629–648. Scholar
  3. Carroll, C., Patterson, M., Wood, S., Booth, A., Rick, J., & Balain, S. (2007). A conceptual framework for implementation fidelity. Implementation Science, 2, 40. Scholar
  4. Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioural sciences. New York, NY: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  5. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York: Harper-Perennial.Google Scholar
  6. Department for Education and Child Development. (2017). Education for a stronger future: Department for Education and Child Development Strategic Plan. Adelaide, SA: Government of South Australia. Retrieved 1 Mar 2018.
  7. Department for Education and Child Development. (n.d.). Student engagement matrix guidelines. Adelaide, SA: Government of South Australia. Accessed 1 Mar 2018.
  8. Dornbusch, S., & Steinberg, L. (1990). Measures of school engagement. Unpublished manuscript, Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Department of Psychology.Google Scholar
  9. Duckworth, A. L., Peterson, C., Matthews, M. D., & Kelly, D. R. (2007). Grit: Perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 1087–1101. Scholar
  10. Duckworth, A. L., & Quinn, P. D. (2009). Development and validation of the short grit scale (Grit-S). Journal of Personality Assessment, 91, 166–174. Scholar
  11. Duckworth, A. L., Steen, T. A., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2005). Positive psychology in clinical practice. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 1, 629–651. Scholar
  12. Forneris, T., Danish, S. J., & Scott, D. L. (2007). Setting goals, solving problems, and seeking social support: Developing adolescents’ abilities through a life skills program. Adolescence, 42, 103–114.Google Scholar
  13. Fredrickson, B. L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist, 56, 218–226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gable, S. L., & Haidt, J. (2005). What (and why) is positive psychology? Review of General Psychology, 9, 103–110. Scholar
  15. Greenberger, E., Chen, C., Dmitrieva, J., & Farruggia, S. P. (2003). Item-wording and the dimensionality of the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale: Do they matter? Personality and Individual Differences, 35, 1241–1254. Scholar
  16. Holm, S. (1979). A simple sequentially rejective multiple test procedure. Scandinavian Journal of Statistics, 6, 65–70.Google Scholar
  17. Kazdin, A. E. (1999). The meanings and measurement of clinical significance. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 67, 332–339.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Keyes, C. L. M. (2006). Mental health in adolescence: Is America’s youth flourishing? American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 76, 395–402. Scholar
  19. Keyes, C. L. M., & Lopez, S. J. (2002). Toward a science of mental health: Positive directions in diagnosis and interventions. In C. R. Snyder & S. J. Lopez (Eds.), Handbook of positive psychology (pp. 45–59). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Locke, E. A. (1968). Toward a theory of task motivation and incentives. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 3, 157–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (1990). A theory of goal setting and task performance. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  22. Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (2006). New directions in goal-setting theory. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 15, 265–268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. MacLeod, A. K., Coates, E., & Hetherton, J. (2008). Increasing well-being through teaching goal-setting and planning skills: Results of a brief intervention. Journal of Happiness Studies, 9, 185–196. Scholar
  24. Maggs, J. L., Schulenberg, J., & Hurrelmann, K. (1997). Developmental transitions during adolescence: Health promotion implications. In J. Schulenberg, J. L. Maggs, & K. Hurrelmann (Eds.), Health risks and development transitions during adolescence (pp. 522–546). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Malecki, C. K., Demaray, M. K., Elliott, S. N., & Nolten, P. W. (1999). The Child and Adolescent Social Support Scale. DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University.Google Scholar
  26. Marshman, P. D. (2005). Choose your life. Adelaide, SA: Peter Marshman & Associates Pty. Ltd.Google Scholar
  27. Marshman, P. D. (n.d.). Youth opportunities personal leadership program. Adelaide, SA: Peter Marshman & Associates Pty. Ltd.Google Scholar
  28. Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50, 370–396.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Masten, A. S. (1994). Resilience in individual development: Successful adaptation despite risk and adversity. In M. C. Wang & E. W. Gordon (Eds.), Educational resilience in inner-city America: Challenges and prospects (pp. 3–25). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  30. Norrish, J., & Vella-Brodrick, D. A. (2009). Positive psychology and adolescents: Where are we now? Where to from here? Australian Psychologist, 44, 270–278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Pallant, J. (2013). SPSS survival manual (5th Edn.). Berkshire: McGraw-Hill Education.Google Scholar
  32. Park, C. L. (2010). Making sense of the meaning literature: An integrative review of meaning making and its effects on adjustment to stressful life events. Psychological Bulletin, 136, 257–301. Scholar
  33. Park, N., Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Strengths of character and well-being. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 23, 603–619.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Reivich, K., & Shatté, A. (2002). The resilience factor: Seven keys to finding your inner strengths and overcoming life’s hurdles. New York: Broadway Books.Google Scholar
  35. Rosenberg, M. (1989). Society and the adolescent self-image (reprint edition). Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Ryff, C. D. (1989). Happiness is everything, or is it? Explorations on the meaning of psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57, 1069–1081.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Ryff, C. D., & Essex, M. J. (1992). The interpretation of life experience and well-being: The sample case of relocation. Psychology and Aging, 7, 507–517.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Seligman, M. E. P. (2002). Authentic happiness: Using the new positive psychology to realize your potential for lasting fulfillment. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  39. Seligman, M. E. P. (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  40. Seligman, M. E. P., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Positive psychology: An introduction. American Psychologist, 55, 5–14. Scholar
  41. Seligman, M. E. P., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60, 410–421. Scholar
  42. Social Ventures Australia Consulting. (2011). Youth opportunities baseline social return on investment report. Unpublished manuscript.Google Scholar
  43. Taylor, R. D., Casten, R., Flickinger, S. M., Roberts, D., & Fulmore, C. D. (1994). Explaining the school performance of African American adolescents. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 4, 21–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Watson, D., Clark, L. A., & Tellegen, A. (1988). Development and validation of brief measures of positive and negative affect: The PANAS scales. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 1063–1070.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rachel M. Roberts
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lorna Fawcett
    • 1
  • Amelia Searle
    • 2
  1. 1.School of PsychologyUniversity of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia
  2. 2.Centre for Traumatic Stress StudiesUniversity of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia

Personalised recommendations