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Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01392

Efficacy of the Aussie Optimism Randomized Controlled Trial: Promoting pro-social behaviour and preventing suicidality in primary school students.

Clare Roberts1,  Robert T. Kane1*,  Rosanna M. Rooney1, Yolanda Pintabona1,  Natalie Baughman1,  Sharinaz Hassan1, Donna Cross2, Stephen Zubrick3 and  Sven R. Silburn4
  • 1School of Psychology and Speech Pathology, Curtin University, Australia
  • 2The University of Western Australia, Telethon Kids Institute, Australia
  • 3Graduate School of Education, The University of Western Australia, Australia
  • 4Menzies Court of Health Research, Charles Darwin Universty, Australia

The efficacy of an enhanced version of the Aussie Optimism Program was investigated in a cluster randomised control trial. Grade 6 students aged 10 – 11 years of age (N = 2288) from 63 government primary schools in Perth Western Australia, participated in the pre, post and follow-up study. Schools were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: Aussie Optimism with teacher training, Aussie Optimism with teacher training plus coaching, or a usual care condition that received the regular Western Australian Health Education Curriculum. Students in the Aussie Optimism conditions received 20, 1- hour lessons relating to social and interpersonal skills and optimistic thinking skills over the last two years of primary school. Parents in the active conditions received a parent information booklet each year, plus a self-directed resilience program in Grade 7. Students and parents completed the Extended Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. Students who scored in the clinical range on the Emotional Problems Scale were given The Diagnostic Interview for Children and Adolescents IV, to assess suicide ideation and behaviour, and depressive and anxiety disorders. Results indicated that the Aussie Optimism with teacher training plus coaching was associated with the best outcomes: A significant increase in student-reported pro-social behaviour from pre-test to post- test 1 (maintained at post-test 2) and significantly lower incidence rates from suicidal ideation at post-test 2 and follow-up. No significant intervention effects on anxiety and depression disorders, and total difficulties were reported. These findings suggest that the Aussie Optimism Program with Teacher Training along with Coaching may have the potential to positively impact on suicidality and pro-social behavior in the pre-adolescent years.

Keywords: Suicidality, Anxiety, Depression, primary school children, Aussie optimism program

Received: 28 Apr 2017; Accepted: 31 Jul 2017.

Edited by:

Jesus De La Fuente, University of Almería, Spain

Reviewed by:

Manuel Soriano-Ferrer, Universitat de València, Spain
Ruomeng Zhao, MacPractice, Inc., United States  

Copyright: © 2017 Roberts, Kane, Rooney, Pintabona, Baughman, Hassan, Cross, Zubrick and Silburn. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Robert T. Kane, Curtin University, School of Psychology and Speech Pathology, Kent Street, Bentley, Perth, 6102, Western Australia, Australia, r.t.kane@curtin.edu.au