The Effectiveness of a Social Skills Intervention for Preventing Aggression in Children: An Evaluation of the Making Choices Intervention Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Wike, Traci L.
    • Affiliation: School of Social Work
  • Exhibiting aggressive behavior in childhood places a child at risk for a host of negative outcomes, including peer-rejection and social maladjustment, as well as later problems with substance use, relationship violence, crime and delinquency. As a result, social development researchers emphasize the need to establish prevention interventions in early childhood in order to interrupt a developmental trajectory toward further aggression and violence. Universal, social skills interventions rooted in a social-cognitive framework have shown promise in promoting social competence and decreasing aggressive behaviors in elementary-aged children. This dissertation evaluates the Making Choices program, a school-based, social problem-solving intervention that strengthens children's social information processing and emotion regulation skills and in doing so, reduces aggressive behavior and increases positive social behavior. The study sample consists of 548 children (223 intervention, 325 control) attending nine schools in two school districts in the Southeastern United States. The intervention was implemented over a 2-year period for students in third to fifth grades. Data were collected over 6 time points: fall and spring of third grade (n=548), fall and spring of fourth grade (n=435), and fall and spring of fifth grade (n=373). Compared with children in the comparison condition, children who received the Making Choices lessons scored lower on teacher-rated relational aggression at fourth and fifth grades, and lower on teacher-rated overt aggression at fourth grade. Making Choices children were also rated higher on teacher-rated measures of social competence and prosocial behavior at grades 4 and 5. Significant increases in emotion regulation were observed for the intervention group at grade 5. The findings suggest that the Making Choices program effectively strengthens children's social-emotional skills, decreases aggressive behavior, and increases children's overall social competencies. This study provides additional evidence that social cognitive interventions show utility in preventing problematic social behaviors and contribute positively to children's healthy social development.
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  • In Copyright
  • "... in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Doctor of Philosophy in the School of Social Work."
  • Fraser, Mark W.
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  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • Open access

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