The study took place in 45 mainstream primary schools in 10 districts within the Greater Manchester region of the United Kingdom.
At the time of outcome measurement, the 45 schools in the analytic sample included 1,582 grade 5 students, with 823 students in the intervention group and 759 students in the comparison group. Among students in the schools, roughly half were male, 70% were White, 12% were Asian, 7% were Black, 17% were identified as students with disabilities, 31% were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, and 23% used English as a second language.
The PATHS® program is a curriculum that aims to promote emotional and social competencies, and reduce aggression and behavior problems in elementary school-age children. The lessons cover five topics: self-control, emotional literacy, social competence, positive peer relations, or interpersonal problem-solving skills. Students in the intervention group received the PATHS® program for a two-year period. PATHS® lessons occurred during normal class time, typically in the period reserved for personal, social, and health education and lasted approximately 30 to 40 minutes. The study team made surface-level changes to the language and examples in the PATHS® program to make it more relevant for a British sample. This was accomplished by altering vocabulary, photographs, cultural references, or names used in lessons (for example, changing the word principal to headteacher, and the word soccer to football).
Students assigned to the comparison condition received the "business-as-usual" instruction that was available in their schools, including lessons in personal, social, and health education; the whole-school component of UK’s Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning (SEAL) program; circle time; nurture groups; the UK's National Healthy Schools program at the universal level; and the Targeted Mental Health in Schools program.
Support for implementation
Teachers in schools that implemented the PATHS® program received one full day of initial training with a half-day follow-up four months later, designed to familiarize teachers with the PATHS® curriculum. Certified trainers from the Pennsylvania State University delivered the training. Teachers in schools implementing the PATHS® program also received an implementation guidance manual developed by the research team and ongoing technical support and assistance from three members of the research team, who had also been trained by Pennsylvania State University trainers.