SNAP Girls is a family-focused, gender-specific early intervention program for girls ages 6-11 exhibiting early disruptive behaviour problems at home, school and in their community. The program components are similar to the SNAP Boys program, but there are important differences based on research and best practices for treating girl aggression. In SNAP Girls, for example, there is greater emphasis on communication and relationship-building.
Experienced and highly trained SNAP staff work with parents to assess problems and create and evaluate treatment or action plans. Typically the program consists of six key components:
- SNAP Girls Club – a structured group that meets weekly for 13 weeks and teaches girls the SNAP technique to achieve emotion-regulation, self-control, realistic thinking and problem-solving skills
- A concurrent SNAP Parenting (SNAPP) Group - teaches parents the SNAP technique in conjunction with effective child management strategies
- Girls Growing up Healthy – typically offered after SNAP groups are completed. The caregiver-daughter group aims to strengthen this essential relationship at the critical pre-teen stage, and to address issues related to physical development and healthy relationships
- Family counselling based on SNAPP (Stop Now and Plan Parenting)
- Individual counselling/mentoring for girls who require extra support
- School advocacy and teacher support to assist girls who are struggling behaviourally and/or not performing at their age-appropriate grade level at school
As girls reach adolescence, they may decide to become engaged in continuing services including SNAP Girls Youth Leadership Services, individual and family counselling, school support and advocacy, job readiness and external referrals, as needed. As well, a parent problem-solving group is offered several times each year to support parents after completing the SNAP Parenting group.
When it launched in 1985, the original SNAP program was a co-ed program, but as the program grew and developed, it became apparent that girls were not gaining the same benefits from the program as their male counterparts. At the time, there was a significant gap in gender-specific research and programs focusing on girl aggression. As a result, Kathryn Levene, Clinical Director at the former Earlscourt Child and Family Centre, now Child Development Institute, began studying the unique factors influencing girl aggression and the treatment approaches to best meet the specific needs of girls.
In 1996, SNAP Girls Connection (now called SNAP Girls) launched as the first-ever sustained, gender-specific program for behaviourally troubled girls and their families. Developed using the SNAP model, the program incorporates a feminist lens to recognize gender differences. Along with the program’s theoretical foundation of social learning, self-control and problem-solving,it offers a strong focus on relationship building and positive mother-daughter attachment.
Unique, gender-specific risks and protective factors that influence the negative trajectory of young girls are increasingly being identified. The social and financial burdens of having young girls grow up angry and antisocial are profound in terms of both immediate and long-term consequences, such as:
- Risk for youth violence and delinquency can be identified early in a girl’s life; a seven-year "incubation" period exists between early behaviour problems and their entrenched manifestations in adolescence.
- Early risk factors impact on healthy girlhood development in key areas: academic failure, behaviour problems across domains, poor connection with mothers/other important adults and social marginalization.
- Not having mastered primary developmental tasks, these girls may enter a negative pathway which includes multiple risks such as:
- Membership in negative and delinquent peer groups
- Delinquent behaviours
- Early sexual activity and heightened levels of sexually transmitted diseases
- Estrangement from families
- Substance abuse
- Truancy and school drop-out
- Early pregnancy
- Early parenthood impaired by this shaky foundation
- Adulthood marked by serious problems (e.g., criminality, abusive relationships)
For girls, important long-term and intergenerational effects are associated with an early aggressive history. Their sons and daughters are at risk of becoming the next generation of children exhibiting early behaviour and health problems.
“He wasn’t a choice-maker. He’d just follow. Now he’s making better choices for himself. He knows he has a choice to hang out with the bad kids or be a good kid and ignore it all.”
Parent of SNAP boy