There is an urgent need today to specify the general prevention programs for risk behaviours among youth as to the needs of particular target groups. Practice has shown that to make a prevention program as much efficient as possible, it should rely on actual data about the prevalence of this problem in a target group and its members’ awareness of it.
This article presents preliminary findings of a study into results achieved by the Ladya program for primary prevention of risk behaviours and socially significant diseases. The Ladya program was taught in the period from 2012-2013 at Secondary Schools No. 418 and 422 in Kronstadt. The study has made it possible to elicit the strategic goals and specific targets of the prevention work carried out in groups of secondary school children.
The study was carried out by the Foundation for Inter-Church Christian Diakonia in cooperation with the Kronstadt Center for Psychological, Medical and Social Support.
The researchers used as the study method a survey by means of an anonymous questionnaire with various degrees of formality. The questionnaire consisted of 48 basic questions with sub-questions. The survey was held by a group of specially trained interviewers. All the questions were grouped under the following blocks:
- Socio-demographic characteristics of the schoolchildren;
- Family factor;
- School factor;
- Personality factor;
- Health factor;
- Risk Behaviour and Use of Psycho-Active Substances factor;
- Values factor.
The respondents included 39 ninth-graders in 2012 (average age 15) and 27 tenth-graders in 2013 (average age 16) who participated in the Ladya program. Among them 64% were boys and 36% girls, with 43% living in full nuclear families, 36,7% in full or one-parent extended families and 19,2% living only with the mother. The incidence of other family compositions does not exceed 1,5%.
The survey results were processed with the use of qualitative and quantitative methods of mathematical data processing.
A brief description of the Ladya Program
The Ladya Program is based on a spiritual and moral approach to the prevention of socially dangerous diseases and was initiated by the Russian Orthodox Church. The program developers group included leading Russian specialists in preventive work from Moscow, St. Petersburg and Bryansk.
The Ladya Program is aimed at providing primary prevention for 13-17 year-old teenagers. It is based on the principles of non-specific prevention aimed at forming in teenagers a system of spiritual and moral guidelines which, realized in their behaviour, would minimize the risk of developing a risk behavioural.
This program is special in that, unlike current popular information and education projects, it addresses the fundamental causes of risk behaviour among children, teenagers and youth leading to dangerous diseases, the use of drugs and contraction of such socially dangerous diseases as hepatitis B and C and HIV infection.
The program successfully combines the best practices achieved in psychology and uses a wide range of training games and exercises designed for particular ages, and provides the necessary theoretical material on each theme. At the same time, the theoretical aspects of the program deal with not only psychological but also spiritual aspects – an important endeavour for today’s Russia as it experiences a profound existential and spiritual crisis. Among the primary signs of this crisis is a great number of young people involved in dependent and deviant forms of behaviour.
Along with children, teenagers and youth, the program involves parents and school administration, thus ensuring a better effectiveness of its educative effort. The work with the school administration and teachers presupposes the task to inform them of the aim and content of the lessons and to develop a positive image of the program.
The program is intended for teaching in ordinary schools, boarding schools and higher education institutions as part of additional education. It is designed for both socially adapted and so-called “problem” teenagers. Its aim is to catechize participants and initiate them to the Church and it can be used for work with representatives of various religious confessions.
The Ladya Program underwent expertise and was recommended for usage by Russia’s Federal Drug Control Service and Federal Research Center for Upbringing Problems, the Formation of a Healthy Lifestyle, Prevention of Drug Addiction and the Socio-pedagogical Support of Children and Youth. It received positive reviews and responses from the Academy of Post-Graduation Pedagogical Education, National Narcology Research Center, Kaliningrad Regional Ministry of Education, Pavlov State Medical University in St. Petersburg and other institutions and departments.
Today the program is being introduced in Kaliningrad, Bryansk, Rostov-on-Don, Nizhniy Novgorod, Orenburg, Ivanovo, Voronezh, Pskov, Kostroma, Surgut, Lipetsk, St. Petersburg and other cities in Russia.
Principal conclusions of the study
The types of psycho-active substances popular among the respondents are alcohol, used especially in the form of drinks with relatively low content of spirits, and tobacco smoking as a stable form of behaviour characteristic of a small part of the respondents. During the year in which the program was carried out, there was a stable tendency for a changing attitude to alcohol and tobacco smoking as the number of cases of taking alcohol and smoking cigarettes decreased, increasingly lower alcohol drinks were used, the cases of strong alcoholic intoxication decreased, etc.
At the time of the survey, less than 5% of the respondents had an experience of drug use. During the final study, none of the respondents mentioned the use of drugs. However, the study showed a considerable growth in the offer of drugs to the schoolchildren as about 50% of them encountered suggestions that they try drugs. The most popular are cannabis drugs and stimulators bought or obtained otherwise through friends and acquaintances.
A positive dynamic was observed in mastering the skills of structuring one’s time including leisure time.
During the year, the respondents’ answers showed a change in their sources of information about health. The Internet left other sources far behind, with parents, doctors and friends following. The participants in the program showed an increased awareness of their personal responsibility for their own health. Besides, the subjects of interest for the respondents came to include the problem of mental health and the ways of preserving it.
The researchers were alerted by the facts that a growing number of the respondents at least occasionally get caught in situations that appear helpless to them. In a considerable number of cases, respondents have to rely only on themselves, and the proportion of such children increased during the program year.
It is possible to state that during the experiment the respondents developed an increased motivation for the participation in school life; there was a change in their attitude to learning as a necessary condition for a future successful life, and the proportions of such students increased in various schools by approximately 15-20%.
Most of the respondents consider themselves to be fairly well informed about intimate life. In this connection, the results of the study are vitally important from the point of view of preventing HIV and other socially dangerous diseases as they show that after a year of the program implementation, there developed a tendency to put off the sexual debut till after the age of 17 or 18 and till marriage, to perceive the “civil” marriage as one with numerous disadvantages, to believe that to be happy in life one should necessarily keep marital fidelity and to have more respect for the ideas of marriage and the family.
On the whole, the implementation of the Ladya Program in 2012-2013 points to the enhanced effect of the following factors preventing the development of various forms of risk behaviours in the following areas:
- Attitude to the use of psycho-active substances;
- Motivation for studies and participation in school life;
- Development of relations between the family and the school;
- Satisfaction with the process and result of one’s basic (in this case educational) activity;
- Ability to structure one’s time;
- Formation of a positive vision of one’s future;
- Existence of clear life plans;
- Organization of one’s leisure;
- Sexual life and sexual debut;
- Formation of values defining one’s behaviour model;
- Respect for the value of marriage, the family, children, profession;
- Attitude to religion and faith;
- Attitude to various forms of risk behaviour.
Therefore, it is evident from the results of the years 2012-2013 that the school groups showed a positive dynamic expressed in the reduction of factors conducive to the development of various forms of risk behaviour. It can be assumed that among the points which contributed to it was the implementation of the Ladya Program aimed at primary prevention of risk behaviour and socially significant diseases among teenagers through the formation of a system of spiritual and moral guidelines.