Articles & Briefs

What We Know, and What We Need to Find Out About Universal, School-Based Social and Emotional Learning Programs for Children and Adolescents

A Review of Meta-Analyses and Directions for Future Research

January 26, 2023
Psychological Bulletin

This article reviews 12 meta-analyses of universal, school-based social and emotional learning (SEL) programs for children from early childhood education through high school. Collectively, the meta-analyses were rated to be high quality, and included 523 unique reports conducted in many countries and involving an estimated one million students.

Key takeaways:

  • A systematic review of 12 recent meta-analyses, involving an estimated one million students from preschool through high school, demonstrates that universal social and emotional learning (SEL) programs have consistent, positive impacts on a broad range of student outcomes.
  • However, in these 12 recent meta-analyses there is little consistency regarding the conditions and or mechanisms (for example student characteristics or implementation features) by which SEL programming is most effective.
  • Recommendations for future work to better understand which individual, contextual, methodological, and programmatic variables help or hinder the development of young people’s different SEL skills are addressed and include research practice partnerships and sharing disaggregated results by important characteristics.


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  • Durlak, J. A., Mahoney, J. L., & Boyle, A. E. (in press). What we know, and what we need to find out about universal, school-based social and emotional learning programs for children and adolescents: A review of meta-analyses and directions for future research. Psychological Bulletin.

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