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Skills, Opportunities, and Recognition (SOAR)

Ages 5-14

Rating: Level 2


The Skills, Opportunities, and Recognition (SOAR) program (formerly known as the Seattle Social Development Project) has its roots in the Social Development Model, which posits that positive social bonds can reduce antisocial behavior and delinquency. It is a multidimensional intervention designed for the general population and high-risk children (those with low socioeconomic status and low school achievement) who are attending grade school or middle school. The program seeks to decrease juveniles’ problem behaviors by working with children and their parents and teachers. It intervenes early in children’s development to increase prosocial bonds, to strengthen attachment and commitment to schools, and to decrease delinquency.

SOAR concentrates heavily on a combination of teacher training and parent training.

Teachers receive instruction that emphasizes proactive classroom management, interactive teaching, and cooperative learning. When implemented, these techniques minimize classroom disturbances by establishing clear rules and rewards for compliance; increase children’s academic performance; and allow students to work in small, heterogeneous groups to increase their social skills and contact with prosocial peers. In addition, first grade teachers teach communication, decision-making, negotiation, and conflict-resolution skills; sixth grade teachers present refusal skills training.

Parents receive optional training programs throughout their children’s schooling. When children are in first and second grades, seven sessions of family management training help parents monitor children and provide appropriate and consistent discipline. When children are in second and third grades, four sessions encourage parents to improve communication between themselves, teachers, and students; create positive home learning environments; help their children develop reading and math skills, and support their children’s academic progress. When children are in fifth and sixth grades, five sessions help parents create family positions on drugs and encourage children’s resistance skills.


A 20-year seminal study continues to be conducted in urban, multiethnic elementary schools in Seattle, Wash. The study uses a quasi-experimental design with comparison groups. First graders in five schools were assigned to intervention or control classrooms. In 1985, when the original first graders entered the fifth grade, the panel was expanded to 808 students from 18 Seattle elementary schools. The full intervention group received the intervention package from first grade through sixth. The late intervention group received the intervention package in grades 5 and 6 only, and the control group received no special intervention. The study has followed this multiethnic urban sample of 808 children since they entered the fifth grade in 1985. The sample includes nearly equal numbers of males (n=412) and females (n=396). Slightly fewer than half (46 percent) identified themselves as European-Americans. African-Americans (24 percent) and Asian-Americans (21 percent) also made up substantial portions of the sample. The remaining youths were Native American (6 percent) or other ethnic groups (3 percent). Forty-six percent of respondents’ parents reported a maximum family income under $20,000 a year in 1985, and more than half of the sample (52 percent) participated in the National School Lunch/School Breakfast Program at some point in the fifth through seventh grades. Sample sizes vary for each assessment year based on the number of respondents who completed the interview in that year. Implementation quality was ensured by teachers in both sets of classrooms being observed for 50 minutes on 2 different days in the fall and spring of each year and given scores rating their fidelity to intervention practices. Data was also collected using questionnaires for youths, parents, and teachers; data on delinquency charges in King County, Wash., Juvenile Court; California Achievement Test results; grade point averages; and school disciplinary action reports through age 17 from the Seattle School District.


When the students reached 18 (6 years postintervention) they showed positive effects for the full treatment intervention group, compared with the control group, on many of the school, delinquency, and sexual behavior outcomes. Students in the full intervention reported significantly stronger attachment to school, greater improvement in self-reported achievement, and significantly less involvement in school misbehavior than controls. While no effects were shown for either the full or late intervention groups for lifetime prevalence of cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana, or other illicit drug use at age 18, significantly more subjects in the control group than in the full intervention group had committed violent acts (59.7 percent versus 48.3 percent), reported heavy alcohol use in the past year (25.6 percent versus 15.4 percent), had engaged in sexual intercourse (83.0 percent versus 72.1 percent), and had multiple sex partners (61.5 percent versus 49.7 percent versus; p=.04). Analysis of the interactions between poverty and intervention condition showed that the full intervention was significantly more effective for poorer children in positively affecting attachment to school and in reducing the need to repeat a grade. The intervention had significantly greater effects for working and middle class youths in reducing the lifetime prevalence of pregnancy or of having or fathering a baby. Most observed intervention effects did not differ by gender; however, the full intervention had significantly greater effects on preventing males from repeating a grade and engaging in sexual activity.

Evaluations have demonstrated that the SOAR improves school performance, family relationships, and the students’ ability to avoid drug/alcohol involvement at various grades.

At the end of grade 2, SOAR students, compared with control students, showed

  • Lower levels of aggression and antisocial, externalizing behaviors for white males
  • Lower levels of self-destructive behaviors for white females

At the beginning of grade 5, SOAR students, compared with control students, had

  • Less alcohol and delinquency initiation
  • Increases in family management practices, communication, and attachment to family
  • More attachment and commitment to school

At the end of grade 6, high-risk youth, compared with control youth, were more attached and committed to school, and SOAR boys were less involved with antisocial peers.

At the end of grade 11, SOAR students, compared with control students, showed

  • Reduced involvement in violent delinquency and sexual activity
  • Reductions in being drunk and in drinking and driving

Researchers found that the benefits of SOAR lasted through age 21. The students, now young adults, were engaged in less risky sexual behavior and had less history of violence and less heavy use of alcohol.

Risk Factors


  • Anti-social behavior and alienation/Delinquent beliefs/General delinquency involvement/Drug dealing
  • Early onset of aggression and/or violence
  • Early sexual involvement
  • Favorable attitudes toward drug use/Early onset of AOD use/Alcohol and/or drug use
  • Lack of guilt and empathy
  • Poor refusal skills


  • Family history of the problem behavior/Parent criminality
  • Family management problems/Poor parental supervision and/or monitoring
  • Pattern of high family conflict
  • Sibling antisocial behavior


  • Low academic achievement
  • Negative attitude toward school/Low bonding/Low school attachment/Commitment to school


  • Availability of alcohol and other drugs
  • Availability of firearms
  • Economic deprivation/Poverty/Residence in a disadvantaged neighborhood
  • Low community attachment


  • Association with delinquent and/or aggressive peers
  • Gang involvement/Gang membership

Protective Factors


  • Healthy / Conventional beliefs and clear standards
  • Perception of social support from adults and peers
  • Positive / Resilient temperament
  • Self-efficacy
  • Social competencies and problem-solving skills


  • Effective parenting
  • Good relationships with parents / Bonding or attachment to family
  • Opportunities for prosocial family involvement
  • Rewards for prosocial family involvement


  • Opportunities for prosocial school involvement
  • Presence and involvement of caring, supportive adults
  • Rewards for prosocial school involvement
  • Strong school motivation / Positive attitude toward school


  • Clear social norms / Policies with sanctions for violations and rewards for compliance
  • Presence and involvement of caring, supportive adults
  • Prosocial opportunities for participation / Availability of neighborhood resources
  • Rewards for prosocial community involvement


  • Good relationships with peers
  • Involvement with positive peer group activities


  • OJJDP: Blueprints
  • NIJ: What Works
  • HHS: Surgeon General
  • Department of Education
  • NIDA: Preventing Drug Abuse


Catalano, Richard F., and J. David Hawkins. 1996. “The Social Development Model: A Theory of Antisocial Behavior.” In J. David Hawkins (ed.). Delinquency and Crime Current Theories. New York, N.Y.: Cambridge University Press, 149–97.

Hawkins, J. David, and Richard F. Catalano. 1987. The Seattle Social Development Project: Progress Report on a Longitudinal Study. Washington, DC: National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Hawkins, J. David, Howard J. Doueck, and Denise M. Lishner. 1988. “Changing Teacher Practices in Mainstream Classrooms to Improve Bonding and Behavior of Low Achievers.” American Educational Research Journal 25:31–50.

Hawkins, J. David, Elizabeth Von Cleve, and Richard F. Catalano. 1991. “Reducing Early Childhood Aggression: Results of a Primary Prevention Program.” Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 30:208–17.

Hawkins, J. David, Richard F. Catalano, Diane M. Morrison, Julie O’Donnell, Robert D. Abbott, and L. Edward Day. 1992. “The Seattle Social Development Project: Effects of the First 4 Years on Protective Factors and Problem Behaviors.” In Joan McCord and Richard Ernest Tremblay (eds.). Preventing Antisocial Behavior: Interventions From Birth Through Adolescence. New York, N.Y.: Guilford Press, 139–61.

Hill, Karl G., James C. Howell, J. David Hawkins, and Sara R. Battin–Pearson. 1999. “Childhood Risk Factors for Adolescent Gang Membership: Results From the Seattle Social Development Project.” Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 36(3):300–22.

Huang, Bu, Rick Kosterman, Richard F. Catalano, J. David Hawkins, and Robert D. Abbott. 2001. “Modeling Mediation in the Etiology of Violent Behavior in Adolescence: A Test of the Social Development Model.” Criminology 39(1):75–107.

Lonczak, Heather S., Robert D. Abbott, J. David Hawkins, Rick Kosterman, and Richard F. Catalano. 2002. “Effects of the Seattle Social Development Project on Sexual Behavior, Pregnancy, Birth, and Sexually Transmitted Disease Outcomes by Age 21 Years.” Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine 156(5):438–47.

O’Donnell, Julie J., David Hawkins, Richard F. Catalano, Robert D. Abbott, and L. Edward Day. 1995. “Preventing School Failure, Drug Use, and Delinquency Among Low-Income Children: Long-Term Intervention in Elementary Schools.” American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 65:87–100.


J. David Hawkins, Ph.D.
Social Development Research Group
University of Washington
9275 Third Avenue NE, Suite 401
Seattle, WA 98115
Phone: (206) 685-1997
Fax: (206) 543-4507
Web site:

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