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Anthony Biglan

Center on Early Adolescence
Oregon Research Institute

The Prevention of Psychological and Behavioral Problems Through an Intentional Science of Cultural Change

February 1, 2008
Engineering Building 110, 4:00 PM

Abstract

Over the last forty years an effective science of prevention has emerged. It has developed from the integration of epidemiology, public health, behavior analysis, behavior therapy, sociology, and educational research. The major influences on problematic development of children and adolescents have been delineated and numerous efficacious prevention programs, practices, and policies have been identified through rigorous experimental evaluations. These developments are themselves an example of cultural evolution. It is now possible in principle to significantly reduce the incidence and prevalence of most of the major problems of human behavior and health, including, aggressive social behavior, crime, tobacco, alcohol, and other drug use, depression, academic failure, marital discord, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. However, translating existing knowledge into widespread benefits requires the development of an intentional science for cultural change. Among the targets of such a science are the adoption of effective prevention practices by the major institutions of society, the alteration of economic policy to reduce economic disparity, which contributes to many problems, and restrictions on marketing practices that promote problems. This talk will provide an overview of advances in prevention science and will propose a framework for the development of an intentional science of cultural change. Recognizing that intentional efforts to influence cultural change are both controversial and fraught with dangers, the talk will also discuss the cultural practices needed to prevent a science of cultural change from being used to exploit people.

Biography

Dr. Biglan is a Senior Scientist at Oregon Research Institute and Director of the Center on Early Adolescence. He has been doing research for the last 25 years on the prevention of adolescent problem behaviors. He has conducted numerous experimental evaluations of interventions to prevent tobacco, other drug use, high-risk sexual behavior, reading failure, and aggressive social behavior.

He and colleagues at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences published a book summarizing the epidemiology, cost, etiology, prevention, and treatment of youth with multiple problems (Biglan et al., 2004). He also co-authored Community-monitoring systems: Tracking and improving the well-being of America’s children and adolescents, a monograph published by the Society for Prevention Research (Mrazek, Biglan, & Hawkins, 2004), which is available electronically at www.preventionresearch.org. He is also author of the 1995 book, Changing cultural practices: A contextualist framework for intervention research, published by Context Press.

Dr. Biglan was an expert witness in the U. S. Department of Justice lawsuit against the tobacco companies from 2001 to 2005. He is Past President of the Society for Prevention Research and has been a board member since 1998.

Readings

  1. Selection by consequences: one unifying principle for a transdisciplinary science of prevention.
  2. Common pathways and influences on adolescent behavior.

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