Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Changing Antisocial Behavior Patterns in Young Boys: A Structured Cooperative Learning Approach

Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Changing Antisocial Behavior Patterns in Young Boys: A Structured Cooperative Learning Approach

Article excerpt


This study examined the effectiveness of using a structured cooperative learning approach to increase appropriate behaviors of young boys who were identified as being at risk for the development of antisocial behavior patterns. Students received a six-week cooperative learning intervention using positive peer role models to teach interpersonal problem-solving skills through the combined use of cognitive and behavioral techniques. Results show a significant increase in academic engaged time; however, the intervention failed to produce significantly lower rates of externalizing antisocial behaviors or negative playground interactions.


The development of a child's antisocial behavior patterns follows a predictable sequence that begins when the child is an infant and escalates as he or she grows older (Patterson, 1986; Patterson, Reid, & Dishion, 1992). By the time the child with antisocial behaviors enters school, he or she is at a disadvantage in learning basic academic skills, developing healthy peer and adult relationships, or controlling the social environment by means of prosocial behaviors (Quinn, Mathur, & Rutherford, 1995). This is especially true for boys with antisocial behavior patterns (Lochman & Dodge, 1994).

According to the literature, if antisocial behavior patterns persist, these children are in danger of a host of academic and social problems in adolescence, such as low sell-esteem, membership in deviant peer groups, substance abuse, truancy, and delinquency (Robins & Ratcliff, 1978-9). Left unchecked, these behavior patterns also put children at great risk of becoming "career antisocial adults". The absence of the social skills necessary to move beyond a marginal existence substantially diminishes any hope for a quality life. Longitudinal studies show that antisocial children and adolescents become unhappy adults, plagued with marital problems (Caspi, Elder, & Bem, 1987), erratic employment (Robins, & Ratcliff, 1978-9), a heightened risk for multiple arrests, drug and alcohol abuse, and institutionalization for crimes or mental disorders (Caspi, Bem, & Elder, 1989; Robins, West, & Herjanic, 1975). One unmistakable implication of this research for educators is that children who display these behaviors need to be taught prosocial interpersonal skills as early as possible.

One approach to teaching interpersonal skills to children targets a combination of cognitive and behavioral strategies. This approach is designed to enhance overt behavioral change by teaching children to change their thought processes (Durlack, Fuhrman, & Lampman, 1991). Emphasis is on teaching both the cognitive problem-solving process, and the overt behaviors necessary to successfully solve interpersonal problems. Research has demonstrated that the use of cognitive-behavioral problem-solving techniques, can decrease antisocial behaviors and increase prosocial behaviors in multiple settings (home, school, and community) and with multiple raters (self, parent, and teacher) (Kazdin, Siegel, & Bass, 1992).

Many social skills programs emphasize teaching specific skills to individuals or small groups of children who display a greater than average need to learn social skills (selected method). Other programs are designed for use with the entire class (universal method). The selected method allows the trainer to focus on the most important behavioral characteristics and needs of individual students. However, recent analyses of accumulated research on social skills instruction indicate that the effect size of selected programs can be minimal (Kavale, Mathur, Forness, Rutherford, & Quinn, 1997). Gresham (1998) and Walker, Colvin, and Ramsey (1995) also point out significant limitations to teaching social skills in selected groups. First, when students have antisocial behavior patterns, the way others see them (negative reputation) is often extremely resistant to change; therefore, peers and teachers often do not notice or reinforce the child's use of prosocial skills when he or she returns to the classroom setting fo llowing intervention. …

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