PEERS Cultural Adaptations Study

The project investigates the cultural acceptability of an American scheme, called the PEERS Program, and making appropriate adaptations for use in Scotland.

In a nutshell

group of teens relaxing in park


We are investigating the cultural acceptability in Scotland of an American social communication skills programme, named PEERS. Our findings will help guide us to make appropriate adaptations.

About the project

PEERS (Program for the Enrichment and Evaluation of Relational Skills) is an evidence-based programme that targets social communication skills, focusing on the ability to make and maintain friendships in teenagers around the ages of 13 to 16 years old. It was developed in California, USA by Elizabeth Laugeson and Fred Frankel. PEERS is beneficial for young people who are aware of difficulties in this area and who would like some support with this.

Both young people and a parent or carer attend 14 weekly sessions. The group focuses on skills like having a conversation, entering and exiting conversations, how to handle teasing and having appropriate get togethers with friends. The young people are taught rules to follow in each session, while the parents/ carers learn about what they young people are learning about and how they can be a 'social coach' for them. Each week there is home practice that both parents and young people report back on.

PEERS in Edinburgh

Here in Edinburgh we have been running PEERS since 2014 and have received a lot of positive feedback. However, we have been aware of areas of the programme that do not sit so well due to cultural differences. For example there are discussions about the types of groups of young people you may see and how you recognise these, using American terms such as 'Jocks' and 'Preppies'. There are also lists of activities that young people might do together that we do not always recognise.

We are carrying out interviews with families who have participated in PEERS to identify their areas of concern or misfit. We will then interview neurotypical teenagers to gain their views of Scottish cultural norms and expectations around these areas.

We will use this information to make appropriate changes to the US programme. Our next step will be to seek funding to carry out a randomised controlled trial on the adapted version


The outcomes of the project could be very relevant to practitioners as it seeks to adapt and improve a programme that has already proved to be feasible to run and to be acceptable to families and professionals involved. 


Chief Scientist Office, through NHS Research Scotland  Career Researcher Fellowships

Key contact

Leila Mackie