Research on YES! for High School Students

The YES! program is currently undergoing rigorous study at UCLA:

  • Researchers at UCLA have shown that the program reduces impulsive behavior (see abstract below), a major predictor of health-risk behaviors, including substance abuse.
  • Sará Benin, Ph.D. candidate at UCLA, is looking at how YES! has impacted student well-being and student identity by looking directly at students’ experience with YES! through the analysis of qualitative interviews. Her socio-emotional research includes an emphasis on the relationship between students’ ability to emotionally regulate, changes in students’ self-awareness, empathy and compassion, changes in their interpersonal relationships, and embodied student agency. She is also researching how students’ have reflected upon YES school implementation strategy, so as to better understand what about YES! program delivery that works efficiently for diverse student populations.
  • They are currently conducting a large study funded by the National Institute of Health to determine the effects of the program on behavioral and neural markers of emotion regulation as well as sustained attention and resilience to stress.
  • Further studies at UCLA are underway to examine the program’s role in building resilience and self-control among adolescents in a residential substance abuse treatment program.

Effects of the Youth Empowerment Seminar on Impulsive Behavior in Adolescents 

Dara G. Ghahremani, Ph.D., Eugene Y. Oh, B.S., Andrew C. Dean, Ph.D., Kristina Mouzakis, B.A., Kristen D. Wilson, R.N., B.S.N., and Edythe D. London, Ph.D.

Department of Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences

Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior

University of California, Los Angeles

To appear in Journal of Adolescent Health (in press)


Purpose: As impulsivity during adolescence predicts health-risk behaviors and associated harm, interventions that attenuate impulsivity may offer protection. We evaluated effects of the Youth Empowerment Seminar (YES!), a biopsychosocial workshop for adolescents that teaches skills of stress management, emotion-regulation, conflict-resolution, and attentional focus, on impulsive behavior.

Methods: High-school students (14-18 years old) in the United States participated in YES! during their physical education classes. Students in a control group attended their usual curriculum and were tested in parallel. Items from the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale (framed to reflect recent behavior) were used to assess the studentsʼ behavior before and after they underwent the program.

Results and Conclusions: Compared with the control group, YES! participants reported less impulsive behavior after the program. The results suggest that YES! can promote mental health in adolescents, potentially protecting them from harmful coping behaviors.

Implications and Contribution: The study indicates that adolescents undergoing the YES! program show reduced impulsive behavior. Given the link between impulsivity and harmful coping behavior, the program may be protective against risk behavior detrimental to adolescent health.

Full text.