Effects of the ACT Raising Safe Kids Parenting Program on Children's Externalizing Problems

By Knox, Michele; Burkhart, Kimberly et al. | Family Relations, October 2011 | Go to article overview

Effects of the ACT Raising Safe Kids Parenting Program on Children's Externalizing Problems


Knox, Michele, Burkhart, Kimberly, Howe, Tasha, Family Relations


Eighty-seven parents and primary caregivers of children aged 10 years or younger participated in a study examining the effects of the ACT Raising Safe Kids program on children's behavior. It was hypothesized that children of caregivers who complete ACT-RSK would demonstrate reduced behavior problems compared to children of caregivers in a treatment-as-usual comparison group. Results indicated that the behavior of children of treated caregivers improved significantly more than comparisons on a measure of conduct problems. Although further research is needed, these results suggest that ACT-RSK may contribute to the prevention of behavior problems in early childhood.

Key Words: aggression, behavior problems, children. parents, prevention.

Rates of violence in the United States are among the highest in the industrialized world (Edleson & Renzetti, 2008). In 2007, juveniles were involved in 1 in 10 arrests for murder and about 1 in 4 arrests for robbery, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and weapons violations (Puzzanchera, 2009). Children who demonstrate aggressive behavior in early childhood have larger numbers of violent offenses later in life compared to children who do not demonstrate early-onset aggression (Farrington & Loeber, 2000). Over time, the cost to society of youth violence is high. For example, it is estimated that a given youth pursuing a pam of criminal behavior can result in 68 to 80 crimes and a cost of $1.9 to $2.6 million dollars (Cohen, 1998). In addition to the juvenile justice system, the mental health system takes on the role of addressing youth violence and related problems. For example, externalizing behavior problems such as aggressive, oppositional, and rule-breaking behavior are the most often cited reason for referral for treatment; approximately half of the children brought for psychological or psychiatric treatment present because of aggressive behavior and related issues (O'Donnell, 1985).

Research on protective factors related to youth violence indicates a need for efforts to improve youths' academic functioning and sense of connection to school as well as strategies aimed at strengthening family functioning and fostering positive, prosocial relationships with supportive adults (Resnick, Ireland & Borowsky, 2004). A variety of variables, including individual, family, community, and peer factors, have been identified as risk factors. Prominent among these are the experience of violent victimization and exposure to violence (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010; Resnick et al, 2004). The present study addresses the effectiveness of a primary prevention program designed to influence family-based risk and protective factors related to youth violence. Specifically, the purpose of the study was to examine whether a program for parents of young children that is designed to improve parenting and prevent child abuse and family violence can prevent or reduce children's externalizing behavior problems. The rationale for the study is based on research that demonstrates that empirically supported prevention such as parent training programs can result in substantial benefits to families and society at large (Waters et al., 2004). Research indicates that parent education and guidance can save billions of dollars through two important mechanisms: reductions in abuse and neglect of children and lower incidences of children's arrests for antisocial behavior. Costeffective early childhood prevention programs are demonstrated to produce significant longterm effects, lasting 8 to 12 years after intervention (Yoshikawa, 1995).

For public health agencies and service delivery systems to effectively allocate their resources toward prevention of youth violence and delinquency, it is first necessary to identify programs that effectively prevent or reduce conduct problems. Efforts to address youth violence and delinquency, however, have faced serious challenges. …

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