Program Implications Based on Children's Cognitive and Social Development

Gibbs (1986) designed the following chart to link prevention implications with the cognitive and social development of children at various ages and grade levels:

[A 60k gif version of this chart is available in case your browser does not support tables.]

2-4 yrs.


Family Preoperative Stage:
magical thinking
difficulty dealing with more than 1 or 2 causes
confuses physical and psychological causes of illness
developing language skills
emphasis on self
oriented to parents
needs limits, supportive, secure environment
developing motor skills
build self-esteem and pro-social development
5-7 yrs.

Kindergarten to First Grade

Preoperative Stage:
magical thinking
difficulty dealing with more than 1 or 2 causes
confuses physical and psychological causes of illness
concrete mental operations
emphasis on self
identifies with own gender
enjoys group play
oriented to parent
build self-esteem and pro-social development
involve parents in activities and knowledge of developmental stages
positive parenting, setting limits, etc.
emphasize positive caring interaction with others
teach and practice health
7-11 yrs.

2nd to 5th Grade

Concrete Operations:
begins to think relationally and to generalize
begins and is capable of integrating several variables in causal relationships
begins and is able to reverse causal relationships
oriented to parents and teachers
enjoys group play and peer relationship of same gender
often competitive or has difficulties with peers
often awkward of effect of behavior on others
impressed by older role models
learns behavior from parents, peers, and role models
more concerned about physical health effects than social
more motivated by health promotion approach than causal information
begins experimenting with licit drugs
involve parents and teachers in prevention activities (teaching drug ed, parenting programs, teacher training)
use small groups to teach social skills, democratic processes and cooperation
teach and use cooperative team processes
provide feedback on behavior
use peer assistance and positive role models
help parents understand modeling role in use of drugs and socialization tasks
use curriculum that gives accurate information/decision-making and builds competency in social skills
select curriculum that sequences first use drugs (alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana)
parents guide children into nondrug using groups and activities
12-16 yrs.

Sixth to Tenth Grade

Peer Group
Normal Mental Operations:
capable of cognitive problem solving and decision-making
ability to think abstractly and hypothetically
integrates multiple factors in understanding illness
oriented to present rather than future
preoccupied with self presentation, physical maturity, and acceptance by peer group
initial sexual intimacy
oriented to peers and role models
more concerned with and motivated by social effects of drug use than physical
seeks opportunities for independent more judgment
differentiates between self and environment
feels unsure and awkward in social skills
experimenting and using drugs
use social inoculation learning life skills curriculum involving peer role models and teaching refusal skills
use team learning team teaching methods in classes
provide drug information decision-making program
identify drug users and refer to intervention system resources
promote peer leadership, peer assistance, peer counseling programs
provide drug information decision-making program taught by role models in health, science or driving ed classes
involve students in changing drinking practice norms
16-18 yrs.

Eleventh to Twelth Grade

Peer Group
Larger Community
Relativistic Thinking:
capable of synthesizing wide range of relational material
primary concern with individual identity, financial independence, deepening relationships, self-exploration, distancing from family and making own decisions
more concerned with psychological effects of drugs than physical or social
oriented to peers and role models
identify drug users and refer to intervention systems resources
sponsor youth business ventures, community projects and drug-free alternative activities
implement curricula focused on the health, social, economic, and legal consequences of misuse and abuse especially in relation to the concrete situations teens face at this age, i.e., drinking and driving

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