Adolescents with externalizing symptoms often lack empathy and other-oriented social competencies. In contrast, adolescents with internalizing symptoms often show high levels of empathic care but frequently lack kindness for themselves. How can these at-risk adolescents developmentally transform
and move towards the capacity to take and care about the perspectives of others and self? Our study
aims at investigating this research question with data from the Harvard RALLY Intervention Program.
This in-school and after-school program implements a clinical-developmental prevention in a sample
of at-risk youth (Noam, Pucci, Foster, et al., 1999). It provides children with integrated mental health
services and educational supports while helping them build strong relationships with adults and peers
that strengthen their resiliency. A pre-posttest design is employed to evaluate the intervention effects
with regard to empathy, developmental growth, and symptoms. The sample consists of 30 7th- and 8th
graders participating in the RALLY intervention project and a control group of 7th and 8th graders. The
adolescents are enrolled in a public middle school in Boston. Externalizing and internalizing symptoms
are measured with the Youth Self-Report (YSR). Empathy and resiliency indicators are assessed via
self- and other-reports. As a control variable, development of moral reasoning is measured with the
socio-moral reflection measure (SRM-SF). Data analyses will focus on pre- and post-intervention
change. Based on the findings, we will discuss how the model of clinical-developmental intervention
can help us to expand our understanding of how to promote empathy and development in at-risk youth.