Understanding SHP: What methods does SHP use to improve relationships?
Our conceptual model guides the development and evaluation of the Sanford Harmony Program (SHP). SHP uses two methods to improve relationships among girls and boys.
The first method is represented by the arrow that points to diverse positive peer experiences. The program is designed to increase the number of positive experiences that children have with other-gender peers. This approach has a long history of being successful in helping groups get along better with one another.
The second arrow points to a large blue rectangle that includes cognitions, attitudes, and skills that can enhance peer relationships. The program is designed to promote relationship efficacy (i.e., children’s beliefs about their ability to interact with others), positive gender attitudes, non-stereotyped thinking, and healthy communication skills so that children are more willing and able to engage in positive interactions with peers.
Short-Term Benefits of SHP: The Gender Integration Cycle
The arrows connecting the two blue rectangles illustrates that the more children develop positive interpersonal cognitions, attitudes, and skills, the more likely they are to experience positive diverse peer interactions. And, the more they interact positively with other-gender peers, the more likely they are to learn new skills and develop positive attitudes and inclusive thinking. We call this process the Gender Integration Cycle. The components of SHP were developed to promote the Gender Integration Cycle so that children will have more diverse friendships, be more comfortable with other-gender peers, and be more skilled and comfortable in social situations.
The Gender Integration Cycle is contrasted with the Gender Segregation Cycle. The Gender Segregation Cycle illustrates that the more time children spend in gender segregated groups, the more likely they are to develop negative gender attitudes (e.g., “Boys are so weird”), limited communication skills (gender-specific styles of communicating), increased gender stereotyping (“Only girls play with dolls”), and decreased relationship efficacy (“I don’t know how to talk to girls”). The goal of SHP is to prevent the social, contextual, and individual processes that initiate and maintain the Gender Segregation Cycle by ensuring that girls and boys are brought together under positive conditions.
Long-Term Benefits of SHP
The arrow pointing to the green rectangle illustrates the longer-term outcomes associated with having more positive and diverse peer relationships. As children develop more comfort and skills in interacting with other-gender peers, they will feel more comfortable in their classrooms, and that will lead to a positive classroom environment and improved participation and academic achievement. Overall, the positive relationship experiences and skills that children gain early in their lives should translate to better relationships as they grow older – in the workplace and in the home.