Preventing aggressive behavior by promoting social information-processing skills: a theory-based evaluation of the Making Choices program Public Deposited

Downloadable Content

Download PDF
Last Modified
  • March 22, 2019
  • Terzian, Mary Arminé
    • Affiliation: School of Social Work
  • This theory-based evaluation was conducted on pretest-posttest data collected from an efficacy trial of the Making Choices (MC) program, a universal intervention designed to prevent conduct problems. This study examined three areas of inquiry. First, program effects on social information-processing (SIP) skills and overt aggression were evaluated. Next, program-by-gender interactions were tested. Lastly, indirect effects were tested to evaluate whether effects on theoretical mediators, in part, explained program success. MC and MC+ were expected to result in decreased overt aggression and improved SIP skills, and gender was expected to moderate these effects. SIP skills were expected to partially mediate program effects on overt aggression. The study utilized a non-randomized, cohort design with treatment withdrawal. The sample consists of three ethnically-diverse cohorts of third graders (N=480; 50% female) from two rural elementary schools. The 2001-02 cohort (n=156) participated in MC, the 2002-03 cohort (n=193) participated in MC+, an augmented version of MC. After a one-year treatment withdrawal period, data were collected from a routine-services cohort (2004-05; n=131). On average, intervention students made greater improvements than comparison students on all outcomes. MC students demonstrated better encoding, emotion regulation, and response selection. MC+ students had less hostile attribution bias and better emotion regulation and response selection. MC and MC+ boys had less overt aggression and more benign social goals than comparison boys. MC+ girls also experienced improvements on these outcomes, though improvements were modest. Effect sizes for SIP skills varied in magnitude from small to medium, and large effects on overt aggression were obtained for boys. Three out of five SIP skills (i.e., goal clarification, response selection, and emotion regulation) appeared to explain program effects on overt aggression. Effects on social cognition were consistent with study hypotheses. Large effects on overt aggression suggest that SIP-based programs may be particularly effective at preventing conduct problems in boys. Mediation findings suggest that effects on SIP skills explained program effects. Intervention research examining mediation and moderation can help us to achieve a better understanding of "what works" and "for whom," improving our capacity to prevent problem behavior in youth.
Date of publication
Resource type
Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Fraser, Mark W.
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Open access

This work has no parents.