Public Release: 

Multidimensional violence prevention program works well in preliminary tests in elementary schools in mid-sized city

American Psychological Association

To combat the prevalence of violence in young children's environments, a new violence prevention program has been developed to be used in all parts of a child's world ­ home, classroom, lunchroom and playground. This intervention program -- Linking the Interests of Families and Teachers program (LIFT) -- has passed the preliminary tests of effectiveness for stopping aggressive behavior and violence in elementary school children, according to the results of a study in the April issue of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, which is published by the American Psychological Association.

"This is a relatively new breed of intervention that appears very promising," said psychologist Mike Stoolmiller, Ph.D., lead author of the study, "because it includes an entire population rather than a selected subset of individuals within that population. Also, peers, parents, teachers and interveners do the monitoring so all the environments a child interacts in are covered."

Psychologist John B. Reid, Ph.D., principal investigator, and Drs. Stoolmiller and J. Mark Eddy recruited 12 elementary schools in a metropolitan area (population 200,000) with a total of 671 students in 32 classrooms (382 attending the intervention schools and 289 attending the control schools) to participate in LIFT. Both the intervention and control groups shared similar background characteristics.

In the study, classrooms of children were randomly assigned to the intervention or control condition. Physical aggression as measured by direct observation on the school playground was used as the outcome to determine the success of LIFT. The observers did not know which children were in the control or intervention group.

In the intervention groups, all the children in a particular classroom, either first or fifth grade, were exposed to various environmental manipulations in different settings, said Dr. Stoolmiller. "All the parents within a target school participated in a series of parent education classes, all the teachers in the target classrooms learned how to better manage off-task and inappropriate behavior, and volunteer playground monitors learned how to better supervise and reward child behavior during unstructured lunch and recess periods."

"We found that the more aggressive the target child was initially, the greater the reduction in aggressive behavior after being exposed to LIFT," said the authors. "Furthermore, we found such large effects, that after the intervention, the most initially aggressive children were virtually indistinguishable from the average child in that social milieu." Follow-up studies are in progress to determine the long-term impact of the LIFT program on future crime and delinquency.

"Even if there are no long-term effects on delinquency or criminality that can be attributed to reductions in aggressive playground behavior," said Dr. Stoolmiller, "the radical improvement in the playground atmosphere in the intervention group suggests that preventive interventions similar to LIFT could provide children with a much safer experience in unstructured settings during the school day."

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Article: "Detecting and Describing Preventive Intervention Effects in a Universal School-Based Randomized Trial Targeting Delinquent and Violent Behavior," Mike Stoolmiller, Ph.D., J. Mark Eddy, Ph.D., and John B. Reid, Ph.D., Oregon Social Learning Center, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Vol. 68, No.2. Full text of the article is available from the APA Public Affairs Office or at www.apa.org/journals/ccp/ccp682296.html.

Mike Stoolmiller, Ph.D., can be reached by phone at 541-485-2711 or email at mikes@oslc.org

The American Psychological Association (APA), in Washington, DC, is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world's largest association of psychologists. APA's membership includes more than 159,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 53 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 59 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting human welfare.

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