Zippy's Friends has been extensively and independently evaluated in a variety of cultures.
The most recent evaluation of the programmes was a randomized control trial conducted by the renowned Trimbos Institute in the Netherlands, involving 1,177 children completing both Zippy’s Friends and Apple’s Friends. Overall, the results are positive with both child self-report and parent report measures revealing a significant positive impact on children’s social, emotional and behavioural outcomes.
Whilst teacher reports did not show significant programme findings, results from the child-self report measures indicated a significant improvement in children’s emotional recognition skills and adaptive coping skills. In addition, parents also reported an improvement in children’s social and emotional skills, in particular, enhanced motivation and reduced externalising behaviour problems including hyperactivity and aggressive behaviour.
The largest study to date was conducted with nearly 1,500 children in Norway. Published in 2012, it made a number of positive findings about the programme’s effects on children. It found that participation in Zippy’s Friends significantly improved children’s coping skills, as had been found in earlier studies. Teachers assessed that children’s academic skills had improved too. The programme significantly reduced bullying, and, in a new finding, reported that the social climate in the classroom was improved.
A summary of the study and references to the published articles can be read here.
Another comprehensive study was conducted by the Health Promotion Research Centre at the National University of Ireland, Galway. This randomized control trial involved 730 children from 42 schools in the West of Ireland. The results, published in April 2010, showed that the programme was successfully implemented and that teachers were ‘consistently positive’ about it. Taking part in Zippy’s Friends ‘significantly improved the emotional literacy and coping skills of the children, reduced their hyperactivity levels and led to improved relationships in the classroom.’ Another encouraging finding was that 77 per cent of teachers who taught the programme said that it had a positive effect on children’s academic achievement.
The results of the Irish evaluation were consistent with the positive findings of other international studies.
In 2001, a study in Denmark and Lithuania looked at Zippy’s Friends in different languages, different grade levels and very different types of school environment. It concluded that the programme had been successfully implemented in both Denmark and Lithuania, and found that children in both countries showed clear improvements in coping abilities and social skills. The programme was equally effective with boys and girls.
The results of this study have been published in the following article: Mishara, BL and Ystgaard, M, 'Effectiveness of a mental health promotion program to improve coping skills in young children: Zippy's Friends', Early Childhood Research Quarterly 21 (2006) 110-123.
There have been three further studies in Lithuania. The first found that all the improvements in children's social skills and problem behaviours that were recorded during the programme were maintained one year later. This is particularly encouraging, because Zippy's Friends aims to teach young children skills that will help them for the rest of their lives.
The second study in Lithuania looked at whether children who had taken part in Zippy’s Friends in kindergarten adapted better to the more structured curriculum of primary school than those who had not taken part. It found that they coped significantly better in a number of ways. This article has been published as: Monkevicien?,O, Mishara, BL and Dufour, S (2006) ‘Effects of the Zippy’s Friends Programme on Children’s Coping Abilities During the Transition from Kindergarten to Elementary School’, Early Childhood Education Journal 31(1), 53-59.
The third study, completed in late 2009, traced some of the children – now teenagers – who took part in the original evaluation in Lithuania. It found that most of them not only remembered Zippy’s Friends but also said that the programme had helped them to cope with difficulties in their lives. This study, titled Nine Years On – What Children Remember of Zippy’s Friends, is published in full on this website.
A number of smaller studies have been conducted in other countries, and further studies are ongoing in Canada and Norway.
The adapted version of Zippy’s Friends for children and young people in special schools has been evaluated by the University of Birmingham. The findings of this study suggest that the Special Needs Supplement to Zippy's Friends "can have beneficial effects for children with SEN, particularly in the areas of self-awareness, ability to regulate emotions and relationship skills".
Click here to read the Executive Summary of the evaluation study by the University of Birmingham.