Enhancing resiliency and promoting prosocial behavior among Tanzanian primary-school students: A school-based intervention

Rony Berger, Joy Benatov, Raphael Cuadros, Jacob VanNattan, Marc Gelkopf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Children in Sub-Saharan Africa are living under chronic adversity due to poverty, serious health issues, physical and sexual abuse, and armed conflicts. These highly stressful conditions have deleterious effects on their mental health and socio-emotional adjustment. Since many children lack adequate access to mental health care, culturally adapted school-based resiliency programs could provide a resource to scaffold their development and promote their mental health. This study evaluated the efficacy of a universal school-based intervention in enhancing the resiliency of Tanzanian primary school children and cultivating prosocial behaviors. A total of 183 students from grades 4 to 6 were randomly assigned to either the 16-session “ERSAE-Stress-Prosocial (ESPS)” structured intervention or to a Social Study curriculum (SS) active control group. The original ESPS program was adapted by Tanzanians mental health professionals who modified the program based on local idioms of distress and indigenous practices. Students' resilience was evaluated before, after and 8 months following the intervention by assessing social difficulties, hyperactivity, somatization, level of anxiety, prosocial behaviors and school functioning as well as academic achievements and disciplinary problems. There was significant improvement on all outcome measures for the ESPS group compared to the control group post-intervention and at the 8-month follow up. The ESPS intervention was equally effective on most measures for students experiencing different adversity levels. The results indicate that a culturally adapted universal school-based intervention can be effective in enhancing Tanzanian students' resiliency and promoting prosocial behaviors. Should these results be replicated and found enduring, the modified ESPS could be a valuable mental health-promoting intervention in other low-income countries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)821-845
Number of pages25
JournalTranscultural Psychiatry
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2018


  • cultural adaptation
  • local idioms of distress
  • prosocial behavior
  • resiliency
  • school-based intervention
  • social support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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