Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Evaluation of the Second Step Violence Prevention Program at a Rural Elementary School. (Special Topic)

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Evaluation of the Second Step Violence Prevention Program at a Rural Elementary School. (Special Topic)

Article excerpt

Abstract

The Second Step Violence Prevention Program was implemented in a rural elementary school with a population of mostly poor, white students. A yearlong longitudinal evaluation with students in the third through sixth grades was conducted to assess the effectiveness of the intervention. For comparison, data were also gathered from students in a nearby school without such an intervention. Results on teacher ratings on the School Social Behavior Scales (Merrell, 1993) indicated that there were significant improvements in ratings of social competence (p<.0l) and antisocial behaviors (p<.05) at the intervention school when compared with students at the nonintervention school. Independent behavioral observations also showed improvements in some prosocial behaviors, such as engaging appropriately with peers. Observations did not find the same improvement in antisocial behaviors at the intervention school. Results and implications are discussed.

Introduction

Although recent events in the media have brought the issue of violent youth behaviors to the fore, there remain more questions than answers about what can help to prevent such behaviors. For some high-risk children, an identifiable pattern of excessive aggression and impulsive behavior emerges as early as age 3 (chamberlain & Nader, 1971). Yet tragedies in Littleton, colorado and elsewhere have highlighted the fact that youth violent behaviors are not necessarily perpetrated by children who are targeted early on as "problem" children.

It has been estimated that 25-30% of school-aged children exhibit general behavior problems (Cowen et al., 1975). Community studies have shown that between 4% and 17% of children in the general population meet criteria for serious emotional disturbance (costello, Messer, Bird, cohen, & Reinherz, 1998), and about 10% of the school-aged population qualify for a DSM-III-R diagnosis (Angold, Costello, Farmer, Burns, & Erkanli, 1999).

What do we know about the early indicators of aggressive behavior? Poking and pushing other children in the elementary school years, negative and defiant behavior (Spivak & Cianci, 1987), and self-centered verbal responses to others such as interrupting and blurting out thoughts (Dodge, Pettit, Mcclaskey, & Brown, 1986) have been identified as some of the early warning signs of later aggressive and impulsive behavior. Such children are also more likely to be neglected by their peers, to be the victims of bullying by other children, to have low self-confidence, to underachieve in school, and to exhibit social withdrawal (Coie, Dodge, & Kupersmidt, 1990).

Concern about youth violence has led to the development and implementation of a number of violence prevention programs in schools throughout the country. The vast majority of these programs take place in urban, inner-city neighborhoods, and most of these programs focus on adolescents. Far fewer interventions have been aimed at young children, even though many of the undesirable behaviors and accompanying attitudes are evident long before adolescence. For instance, one large scale survey indicated that children in Grades 3 through 5 reported that during the past week, 15% had been sent to the office for disciplinary problems, 13% tried to start a fight, 27% hit someone, and 12% reported being threatened with a gun or knife (Embry, Flannery, Vazsonyi, Powell, & Atha, 1996). By the time children get to middle school, large numbers have engaged in aggressive, risky, or bullying behaviors (Bosworth, Espelage, DuBay, Dahlberg, & Daytner, 1996).

Research indicates that aggressive children have deficits in social skills knowledge and are more likely to respond impulsively when confronted with social problems (Dodge et al., 1986). Preliminary research has found intervention programs to be effective in increasing social skills knowledge, improving social behavior, and preventing declines in social behavior (e. …

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