Positive Peer Culture (PPC)

About This Program

Target Population: High-risk youth in public, private, and alternative schools, and in residential settings, including juvenile corrections

For children/adolescents ages: 11 – 22

Program Overview

PPC is a peer-helping model designed to improve social competence and cultivate strengths in youth. “Care and concern” for others (or “social interest”) is the defining element of PPC. Rather than demanding obedience to authority or peers, PPC demands responsibility, empowering youth to discover their greatness. Caring is made fashionable and any hurting behavior totally unacceptable. PPC assumes that as group members learn to trust, respect, and take responsibility for the actions of others, norms can be established. These norms not only extinguish antisocial conduct, but more importantly reinforce pro-social attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Positive values and behavioral change are achieved through the peer-helping process. Helping others increases self-worth. As one becomes more committed to caring for others, s/he abandons hurtful behaviors.

Program Goals

The overall goals of Positive Peer Culture (PPC) are:

  • Meet the universal growth needs of youth for affiliation, achievement, autonomy, and altruism
  • Improve social competence
  • Cultivate strengths in youth
  • Convert negative peer influence into care and concern for others
  • Developing social interest through leadership and guidance from trained adults

Essential Components

The essential components of Positive Peer Culture (PPC) include:

  • Meeting universal growth needs
  • Total therapeutic milieu approach
  • Building group responsibility: Group members learn to keep one another out of trouble, much as they would be expected to do with their siblings at home.
  • The group meeting: Serves as the problem-solving arena in which youth are able to help one of their peers in a safe environment; meetings are structured: problem reporting, awarding the meeting, problem solving, group leader’s summary. A distinct problem list is used in the program to ensure a universal language.
  • Service learning: Youth are engaged in multiple community projects, developed to reinforce the value of helping others; many projects are conducted along side adult service clubs. Youth are taught that community service is an expected part of community living, not a punishment for misbehavior. In the context of a Positive Peer Culture program, service learning is not simply a program component — service learning is meant to develop a life-style of community responsibility and action.
  • Teamwork primacy: A highly successful program management model, which assumes that “teamwork” is the highest administrative priority. Staff teams are organized around distinct groups of children.
  • Recommended group size: 8-12 youth

Program Delivery

Child/Adolescent Services

Positive Peer Culture (PPC) directly provides services to children/adolescents and addresses the following:

  • Experienced adverse childhood experiences and may not have developmental needs met
Services Involve Family/Support Structures:

This program involves the family or other support systems in the individual's treatment: Parent and family involvement is an essential element in programs using PPC.

Recommended Intensity:

45-90-minute structured group meetings depending on the setting and the participants, ideally 5 times per week

Recommended Duration:

Participation is typically 6-9 months.

Delivery Settings

This program is typically conducted in a(n):

  • Outpatient Clinic
  • Group or Residential Care
  • School Setting (Including: Day Care, Day Treatment Programs, etc.)


This program does not include a homework component.


Positive Peer Culture (PPC) has materials available in a language other than English:


For information on which materials are available in this language, please check on the program's website or contact the program representative (contact information is listed at the bottom of this page).

Education and Training

Prerequisite/Minimum Provider Qualifications

  • Bachelor's degree in the helping professions for direct service workers; Master's degree in social work or a related field for group leaders
  • Five or more years experience in positive youth development programming for supervisors
  • Working understanding of normal child development, trauma, group dynamics, stages of group development, and Situational Leadership

Education and Training Resources

There is a manual that describes how to deliver this program, and there is training available for this program.

Training Contact:
Training is obtained:

Both classroom training and program immersion

Number of days/hours:

A two-day introductory training, Respectful Alliances, is offered on-site and in conjunction with Reclaiming Youth at Risk Conferences.

Implementation Information

Pre-Implementation Materials

There are no pre-implementation materials to measure organizational or provider readiness for Positive Peer Culture (PPC).

Formal Support for Implementation

There is formal support available for implementation of Positive Peer Culture (PPC) as listed below:

Coaching and consultation implementation is provided through Egsmark Associates.

Fidelity Measures

There are no fidelity measures for Positive Peer Culture (PPC).

Implementation Guides or Manuals

There are implementation guides or manuals for Positive Peer Culture (PPC) as listed below:

For the two-day foundational Respectful Alliances training, participants receive:

  • The Manual: Brendtro, L. (2018). Respectful alliances. Lennox, SD: The Resilience Academy.
  • The Book: Brendtro, L., & Mitchell, M. (2015). Deep brain learning: Evidence-based essentials in education, treatment, and youth development. Albion, MI: Starr Commonwealth.

Research on How to Implement the Program

Research has not been conducted on how to implement Positive Peer Culture (PPC).

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research

Child Welfare Outcome: Child/Family Well-Being

Sherer, M. (1985). Effects of group intervention on moral development of distressed youth in Israel. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 14(6), 513-526.

Type of Study: Nonrandomized comparison group
Number of Participants: 48


  • Age — 15-18 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — Not specified
  • Gender — 32 Male and 16 Female
  • Status — Participants were street corner gang members who had volunteered for activities directed by a paraprofessional.

Location/Institution: Israel

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
This study examined the efficacy of Positive Peer Culture (PPC) on moral development of distressed youth in Israel. Participants were assigned to one of three groups. The PPC group consisted of gang members who agreed to participate in a PPC course. Only one gang member from each gang was included in the PPC course. The first comparison group consisted of randomly chosen members of the same gangs in which members of the PPC group belonged. The second comparison group consisted of randomly chosen members of gangs who had no contact with the PPC course or course participants. Measures were taken at the beginning and end of the PPC course. Moral development was measured using the Morality Test for Children (MOTEC). This measure consists of five components: resistance to temptation, moral development, feelings after offense, judgment about severity of punishment, and confession. These are presented to respondents using pictures and stories depicting moral dilemmas. PPC group members scored higher at posttest on resistance to temptation and moral development. For feelings after offense and severity of punishment, the PPC and the same-gang comparison groups scored higher than the other comparison group. No significant differences were found for confession. The authors concluded that the PPC group had a positive effect on other members of their gangs. Limitations include small sample size, lack of randomization and lack of follow-up.

Length of postintervention follow-up: None.

*Leeman, L. W., Gibbs, J. C., & Fuller, D. (1993). Evaluation of a multi-component group treatment program for juvenile delinquents. Aggressive Behavior, 19, 281-292.

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 57


  • Age — Mean=16 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — 67% Caucasian, 31% Black, and 2% Hispanic
  • Gender — 100% Male
  • Status — Participants were youths admitted to a medium-security correctional facility.

Location/Institution: Midwestern U.S.

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
This study examined the efficacy of the Positive Peer Culture (PPC) for juvenile delinquents. Participants were randomly assigned to receive the EQUIP program, based on PPC, or one of two control conditions – simple and motivational. Simple control youths were told that measures were being used for research on delinquency. Motivational control youths were given a 5-minute motivational induction urging them to help other inmates. Measures of conduct and mediating variables were taken before and after the intervention. Archival conduct measures consisted of the felony level of the original offense committed, institutional incident reports, and unexcused school absences. Parole revocation or recommitment were also noted. Self-reported conduct was measured using a questionnaire asking about precommitment delinquent behavior and institutional misconduct. Moral judgment as a mediating variable was measured with the Sociomoral Reflection Measure—Short Form (SRM-SF) and social skills were measured with the Inventory of Adolescent Problems—Short Form (IAP-SF). All groups gained in moral judgment scores and they did not differ significantly at the end of the study. The EQUIP group gained significantly more than other groups in social skills and also showed significant improvements in conduct over the control groups. The EQUIP group also showed lower recidivism rates over 12 months than the control groups. Limitations include small sample sizes and limited to youth in correctional institutions.

Length of postintervention follow-up: 12 months (recidivism only).

Nas, C. N., Brugman, D., & Koops, W. (2005). Effects of the EQUIP programme on the moral judgement, cognitive distortions, and social skills of juvenile delinquents. Psychology, Crime, & Law, 11(4), 421-434.

Type of Study: Pretest-posttest with nonrandomized comparison groups
Number of Participants: 56


  • Age — 12-18 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — Not specified
  • Gender — 100% Male
  • Status — Participants youths in high-security juvenile correction facilities.

Location/Institution: The Netherlands

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
The study compared youth in an EQUIP program, which employs the Positive Peer Culture (PPC) model, at their facility with a control group made up of youth from two other facilities. Moral judgment was measured pretest and posttest using the Sociomoral Reflection Measures—Short Form (SRM-SF). Cognitive distortions were assessed with the How I Think (HIT) Questionnaire. Social information processing was examined by presenting participants with 4 vignettes of hypothetical situations where they were put at a disadvantage by a peer. Participants also took the Attitudes towards Delinquent Behavior Questionnaire, assessing moral beliefs and were assessed on social skills with the Inventory of Adolescent Problems—Short Form (IAP-SF). Results showed that at posttest, the EQUIP group had lower cognitive distortion scores on covert behavior, self-centeredness, blaming others, minimizing/mislabeling, stealing, and lying than did the comparison group. No differences were found for other cognitive distortion subscales. The treatment group also had more negative attitudes toward delinquent behavior. No differences were found for moral judgment, social skills, or social information processing. Limitations include lack of randomization of participants, small sample size, and lack of follow-up.

Length of postintervention follow-up: None.

Ryan, J. P. (2006). Dependent youth in juvenile justice: Do Positive Peer Culture programs work for victims of child maltreatment?. Research on Social Work Practice, 16(5), 511-519.

Type of Study: One group pretest/posttest study
Number of Participants: 286


  • Age — Mean=15.7 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — 67% African American, 28% White, and 5% Hispanic
  • Gender — Not specified
  • Status — Participants were youth released from a large residential program.

Location/Institution: Midwest

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
The purpose of this study is to identify and determine the individual and group-level factors associated with recidivism for children in a long-term Positive Peer Culture (PPC) program. Recidivism is measured using official arrest data from the Department of State Police. Results indicate that youth with a history of physical abuse and neglect were more likely to have a subsequent arrest, indicating that PPC programs may not be the most effective strategy for dependent youth in the juvenile justice system. Limitations include the lack of comparison group and reliance on recidivism data from only one state.

Length of postintervention follow-up: Approximately 9 years.

Steinebach, C., & Steinebach, U. (2009). Positive Peer Culture with German youth. Reclaiming Children and Youth, 18(2), 27-33.

Type of Study: One group pretest-posttest design
Number of Participants: 163


  • Age — Mean=16 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — German
  • Gender — 100% Males
  • Status — Participants were adolescent males in residential treatment with behavioral problems and delinquency.

Location/Institution: St. Augustine Home, Ettlingen, Germany

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
The study evaluated the effectiveness of Positive Peer Culture (PPC) for the treatment of behavioral problems and delinquency in a sample of adolescent males in residential treatment. Participants were enrolled in the intervention over a three-year period and completed assessment measures six times, every six months. No long-term post-intervention follow-up data was presented. Results indicated reductions in violence and increases in pro-social behavior and self-esteem. Major study limitations included lack of randomization and lack of a control or comparison group.

Length of postintervention follow-up: None.

Additional References

Brendtro, L, & Mitchell, M. (2015). Deep brain learning: Evidence-based essentials in education, treatment, and youth development. Albion, MI: Starr Commonwealth; Distributed in Collaboration with Research Press, Champaign, IL.

Osgood, D. & Bridell, L. (2006). Peer effects in juvenile justice. In K. Dodge, T. Dishion, & J. Lansford (Eds.). Deviant peer influence in programs for youth: Problems and solutions (pp. 141-161).

Vorrath, H. & Brendtro, L. (1985). Positive Peer Culture (2nd ed.). New York: Aldine.

Contact Information

Larry K. Brendtro, PhD
Agency/Affiliation: Reclaiming Youth at Risk
Website: www.ReclaimingYouth.org
Phone: (605) 580-9557
Address: PO Box 255
Lennox, SD 57039

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: January 2017

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: September 2019

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: January 2008