Effective Intervention Strategies for Behavior Problems (page 2)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

School-Based Prevention Strategies

Rationale for Parent Training in School Settings.  While parent training historically has not been seen as an essential element of school services, there are several advantages to offering parent training in a school-based preventive model rather than in a mental health setting. First, school-based programs are ideally placed to target multiple risk factors in the child, family, and school and build links between these three areas. Second, school-based programs are more accessible to families and eliminate the stigma associated with services offered in traditional mental health settings as well as some of the practical and social barriers to treatment access (e.g., lack of transportation, insurance, child care, or financial resources). Third, school interventions can be offered before low-level behavior problems have escalated into severe problems that require referral and extensive clinical treatment. Moreover, when intervention is offered in communities, these communities become natural sources of support for parents and teachers (Webster-Stratton, 1997). Lastly, on-site school interventions can provide services to high numbers of high-risk families and children at comparatively low cost.

Empirical Validation of School-Based Prevention.  As indicated by the preceding review, there is extensive knowledge about the development and treatment of conduct disorders using parent training. Work in the area of prevention of conduct problems is also extremely promising. In the past decade several multifaceted, randomized control, longitudinal prevention programs have shown that rates of later delinquency and school adjustment problems can be lowered by early parent–school intervention. Tremblay and colleagues (Tremblay, Pagani, Masse, & Viatro, 1995; Tremblay et al., 1996) found that a combination of parent and child training for high-risk children in kindergarten and first grade reduced delinquency and school adjustment problems at age 12. Similar findings using child and parent training fourth- and fifth-grade students were reported by Lochman and Wells (Lochman & Wells, 1996). FAST TRACK, a large scale, multicenter, multicomponent program, provided ongoing services to children exhibiting conduct problems from first to fifth grade. The intervention included a classroom management component, social skills training called PATHS, (Kusche & Greenberg, 1994), academic tutoring, parent training (based on Forehand, Rogers, McMahon, Wells, & Griest, 1981), home visits, and friendship enhancement. Outcome at 1 and 3 years showed reductions in conduct problems and special education resource use (Group 1999a, 1999b). The LIFT project (Reid, Eddy, Fetrow, & Stoolmiller, 1999), another school-based prevention program, provided parent training, classroom social skills training, a behavioral playground program, and a parent–teacher communication program to all students in high-risk schools. Results showed intervention effects on physical aggression, behavior improvements in the classroom, and reductions in maternal aversive behavior at home (Reid et al., 1999). Two randomized prevention trials of Webster-Stratton's parent intervention program (The Incredible Years Training Series) produced positive change in Head Start parents and their 4-year-old children immediately at posttreatment and at 1-year follow-up. Intervention produced positive changes in parenting, parents' school involvement, children's levels of aggression, conduct problems, and social skills (Webster-Stratton, 1998b; Webster-Stratton & Reid, 1999c).

Prevention Programs That Include Teacher Training

To promote student's behavioral and academic success, teachers must be well trained in effective classroom management. Schoolwide approaches that provide consistent classroom discipline plans and individualized plans for children with conduct problems can be highly effective (Cotton & Wikelund, 1990; Gottfredson, Gottfredson, & Hybl, 1993; Knoff & Batsche, 1995). Specific teacher behaviors associated with improved classroom behavior include the use of high levels of praise and social reinforcement (Walker, Colvin, & Ramsey, 1995); proactive strategies such as preparation for transitions and clear, predictable classroom rules (Hawkins, Von Cleve, & Catalano, 1991); short, clear commands, warnings, reminders, and distractions (Abramowitz, O'Leary, & Futtersak, 1988; Acker & O'Leary, 1987); tangible reinforcement for appropriate social behavior (Pfiffner, Rosen, & O'Leary, 1985); team-based rewards (Kellam, Ling, Merisca, Brown, & Ialongon, 1998); mild but consistent response costs (time-out or loss of privileges) for aggressive or disruptive behavior (Pfiffner & O'Leary, 1987); and direct instruction in appropriate social and classroom behavior (Walker, Schwartz, Nippold, Irvin, & Noell, 1994) and problem-solving skills (Shure & Spivack, 1982).

Classroom management training is promising in demonstrating short-term improvements in disruptive and aggressive behavior in the classroom for approximately 78% of disruptive students (Stage & Quiroz, 1997). Programs such as ACHIEVE (Knoff & Batsche, 1995) and BASIS (Gotfredson et al., 1993) that focus on classroom management skills and discipline, social skills training, and home–school collaboration are effective in reducing teacher reports of antisocial behavior and improving academic achievement. However, these studies did not use randomized control designs or measure the programs' effects across settings and over time.

Several studies using randomized control designs have extended this teacher training research. Two large-scale prevention projects, the Seattle Social Development Project (Hawkins, Catalano, Kosterman, Abbott, & Hill, 1999) and the Child Development Project (Battistich et al., 1991), emphasized training teachers in classroom management. Six-year follow-up of the Hawkins study (Hawkins et al., 1999) with children who received school-based intervention in first through fifth grades showed reduced violent delinquent acts, lower drinking age, less sexual activity, and fewer early pregnancies. Child Development Project results show improvements in prosocial and problem-solving skills (Battistich, Schaps, Watson, Solomon, & Schaps, 1989). A follow-up study of these children demonstrated intervention students were less likely to use alcohol and exhibited fewer delinquent behaviors (Battistich, Schaps, Watson, & Solomon, 1996). Webster-Stratton (Webster-Stratton & Reid, 1999b, 1999c) evaluated the combined effects of parent and teacher training in two randomized control studies, as prevention in Head Start and as treatment with a sample of diagnosed 4- to 8-year-old children. The teacher program significantly enhanced the effectiveness of parent and child training in terms of decreasing aggressive behavior in the classroom, promoting academic readiness, and increasing on-task work. Moreover, participating teachers were observed to use fewer inappropriate and harsh discipline strategies and to be more nurturing and positive than nonintervention teachers.

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