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IS-1.-INVITED SYMPOSIUM

THE PREVENTION OF AGGRESSION IN CHILDREN

Organizer: Huesmann, L. Rowell
Research Center for Group Dynamics, Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA.  

Symposium Abstract
In this symposium we present the initial results from four North American research projects investigating how to prevent young children from developing into aggressive and antisocial adolescents and young adults.  Each study involved a randomized field trial of a theoretically based program intended to prevent the development of aggression and involved a rigorous longitudinal evaluation of the program's effectiveness.  The four programs -- the Fast Track program, the Montreal Longitudinal Study, the Carolina Children's Initiative, and the Chicago Metropolitan Area Child Study -- all show some statistically significant positive effects.  However, the results also suggest that there are limitations to the effectiveness of most prevention programs.  These mixed findings also suggest that those planning to implement prevention programs exercise particular skepticism about the claims of the many highly publicized prevention programs that lack experimentally valid evaluations.

 

IS-1.1.-PREVENTION OF CONDUCT PROBLEMS: THE FAST TRACK PROJECT

Lochman, J.E. and the Fast Track Research Group  
Department of Psychology, The University of Alabama and the Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group, USA

In this presentation, the conceptual and developmental model for the Fast Track project will be reviewed, and initial finding will be presented.  Nearly 900 high risk conduct problem children were identified through kindergarten teacher and parent ratings in four areas of the United States.  These children represent early starters on the developmental trajectory towards serious adolescent conduct problems.  Schools in low-income, high-crime areas of these four communities were randomly assigned to intervention or control conditions.  Intervention began in first grade and will continue through the tenth grade. In the early grades, interventions included classroom-based universal prevention, and social skills training, tutoring, parent groups, and home visits for the targeted high risk children and their families. Assessments take place annually with the three cohorts of children.  Initial analyses at the end of the first grade year indicate that the Fast Track program has had universal intervention effects by improving the classroom atmosphere and reducing the problem behaviors in the intervention classrooms. In comparison to high risk children in the control condition, the Fast Track program has produced behavioral improvements according to teacher and parent ratings, has led to improved social acceptance and social cognitive skills, has produced improved reading skills, and has led to warmer and more appropriate parenting skills.  The plan for further longitudinal assessments and the implications for prevention will be discussed.

IS-1.2.-THE MONTREAL LONGITUDINAL AND EXPERIMENTAL STUDY: RESULTS FROM A MULTI-COMPONENT PREVENTION EXPERIMENT WITH LOW SOCIOECONOMIC STATUS BOYS

Carbonneau, R., Vitaro, F. and Tremblay, R.E.
Ecole Criminologie, University of Montreal, Montreal (Quebec), Canada.

The Montreal Longitudinal and Experimental Study (MLES) includes a multi-component prevention program that targeted disruptive low socioeconomic status (SES) boys when they were aged 7 through 9 years. Significant effects of the preventive intervention were observed on boys’ disruptiveness and school problems at the end of the program, when they were 9 years old, and these effects remained significant until the end of elementary school. A more recent study has examined the impact of the prevention program on the growth of delinquency from 13 to 16 years of age and whether its impact operated through a chain of events compatible with many developmental models. A growth-curve analysis showed that the level of delinquency for the prevention group was lower at 13 years (i.e., the intercept) than in the control group.  There was, however, no direct effect of the program on the growth (i.e., the slope) of delinquency from 13 through 16 years of age.  Path analysis showed that reduction in disruptiveness and increase in parental supervision by age 11 as well as association with nondeviant peers by age 12 were part of a chain of events that was found to mediate the effect of the program on the initial level of delinquency at 13 years.  The analysis also showed that the program had an indirect effect through these variables on the growth of delinquency from 13 to 16 years of age.  The discussion focuses on the possibility of using prevention studies to validate developmental models.

IS-1.3.-THE EFFECTIVENESS OF AN EARLY INTERVENTION PROGRAM FOR AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOR: THE CAROLINA CHILDREN’S INITIATIVE

Fraser, M.W., Galinsky,  M.J., Hodges, V.G., Smokowski,  P.R., Day, S.H. and Abell, M.
School of Social Work, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and James K. Nash Portland State University, USA.

Because early aggressive behavior is correlated with later aggressive behavior, interventions that interrupt risk processes associated with early aggressive behavior hold promise for preventing youth violence.  Among the factors affecting aggression, two social processes appear to have a major impact on conduct problems.  One risk process is related to problematic parent-child interactions, and the other is related to cognitive processes that appear to develop in children as a result of exposure to verbal or physical attacks.  The purpose of this paper presentation is to describe the design and effectiveness of a multi-component intervention developed to disrupt these risk processes.  The conceptual bases for two interventions – designed to be delivered conjointly or separately – and the results of pilot tests of these interventions will be presented.  First, based on coercion theory, the Strong Families (SF) program is rooted in research showing that poor parental supervision and follow-through, when coupled with harsh punishment and failure to reward prosocial behaviors, create a risk chain that promotes aggressive behavior.  Second, based on social information processing theory, the Making Choices (MC) program focuses on the way children encode social cues in the environment, interpret the intentions of others, and generate alternative strategies in social circumstances.  Children who are exposed to violence and discrimination, whether in the family, the school, the neighborhood or the society, often learn to interpret the intentions of others as hostile.  The way these children interpret social information influences their use of aggression in social interaction.  Using family-centered and groupwork approaches, SF and MC are designed to interrupt both risk processes.  Pilot data describing the effectiveness of MC alone and the combination of SF plus MC will be presented.  MC alone was pilot-tested in randomized trials with 164 third and 171 sixth grade children.  The combination of MC plus SF was tested in mental health and community agencies where 67 families with aggressive children were randomized to experimental and routine-services conditions.  Findings suggest that the programs improve parent-child interactions and enhance children’s skills in processing social information.  Findings also suggest that services increase prosocial and reduce antisocial behaviors in the classroom.

 

IS-1.4.-THE EFFECTIVENESS OF A COGNITIVE/ECOLOGICAL PROGRAM TO PREVENT THE DEVELOPMENT OF AGGRESSION:  ANALYSIS OF PRELIMINARY RESULTS FROM THE MACS CHICAGO PROJECT

Huesmann, L.R. and the Metropolitan Area Child Study Group  
Research Center for Group Dynamics, Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan, USA.

The Metropolitan Area Child Study examines the impact of a multi-year, multi-context intervention provided during the early (grades 2-3) or late (grades 5-6) elementary school years in different school and community settings. Schools were randomly assigned to one of four intervention conditions: (a) no-treatment control; (b) general enhancement classroom program; (c) general enhancement plus small-group peer-skills training; or (d) general enhancement plus small-group peer-skills training plus family intervention. The general enhancement classroom program was a universal intervention provided to all students, while the small-group and family interventions were provided to high-risk children only. Schools varied in terms of school and community economic resources, ranging from low resource inner-city schools to moderate resource urban schools. All of the intervention components emphasized reinforcing prosocial and planful behaviors, increasing opportunities for cooperative and prosocial engagement, changing the normative climate so aggression was seen as less appropriate, and learning proactive skills for navigating various social situations.  Hierarchical linear modeling was used to analyze the effects of the intervention so schools could be treated as a random effect within which subjects were nested. The results reported in this paper are based on a high-risk sub-sample of over 1,500 children from 16 schools. Significant decreases in aggression were noted for younger children receiving the most intensive intervention in schools with moderate resources. Results also showed that the early general enhancement classroom program had a positive effect on academic achievement in both low and moderate resource schools. Iatrogenic effects on aggression were noted for younger children in low resource schools receiving the most intensive intervention as well as for older children receiving classroom plus small-group training regardless of school resource level. No significant differences by gender were found for any intervention outcomes. The results indicate that comprehensive interventions can be effective for young children in schools with adequate resources to support learning and development, but they may have unintended negative effects in schools with less adequate resources or when delivered too late developmentally.