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Practice Profile

Universal School-Based Social Information Processing Interventions for Aggression

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:

Promising - One Meta-Analysis Juvenile Problem & At-Risk Behaviors - Aggression

Practice Description

Practice Goals
Universal school-based social information processing Interventions are school-based, violence prevention programs that target one or more aspects of students’ social information-processing difficulties. Social information-processing refers to how individuals, in this case, children, interpret and process social situations. An individual’s behavioral response is the result of personal experiences and objective social knowledge. It is believed that children with aggression fail to process the information received, which leads to aggressive behavior in social situations (Dodge and Crick 1990). Overall, the goal of these interventions is to improve the social behavior of school-aged children, and thereby reduce their negative behaviors (such as aggression and disruptive behavior) that are thought to be the result of cognitive deficits in social information- processing (Wilson and Lipsey 2006).  

Practice Components
Although social information-processing programs have similar attributes to other behavioral social skills and cognitive-oriented programs, they can be distinguished by three characteristics:

  1. The program includes training in at least one of the social information-processing steps: (1) encoding situational and internal cues, (2) interpreting the situational and internal cues, (3) choosing or clarifying a goal, (4) producing or accessing possible responses to meet the goal chosen, (5) selecting a response, and (6) executing the behavior. 
  2. Rather than targeting specific behavioral skills, the program emphasizes cognitive/thinking skills. Through teaching students cognitive and thinking skills, social information-processing interventions aim to improve a student’s ability to process information in a variety of social situations.
  3. The program includes structured tasks and activities to teach cognitive skills to the students. Students then have the opportunity to apply the skills to actual social situations. 
Target Population
Universal school-based social information-processing interventions are delivered in classroom settings to school-aged children during regular school hours. Individual students are not selected for the intervention; rather, all students in a classroom participate in program activities.
 
Practice Theory
Universal School-Based Social Processing Interventions are grounded in the social information-processing model, which holds that children experience a social situation as a result of their biological dispositions and memories from past experiences. Children receive input from the social situation, and their behavioral responses are  the result of processing this input (Crick and Dodge 1994). According to the model, input is processed through the six social information-processing steps (described above).It is believed that a deficiency in one of the six interrelated steps produces negative social behaviors such as aggression. The theory further argues that aggressive children and nonaggressive children differ in their abilities to process social information (Wilson and Lipsey 2006). 

Meta-Analysis Outcomes

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Promising - One Meta-Analysis Juvenile Problem & At-Risk Behaviors - Aggression
Wilson and Lipsey (2006) found that universal school-based social information processing interventions had a statistically significant, though modest, impact on aggressive behavior. Aggregating the results of 73 studies, the authors found an overall effect size of 0.21, meaning that students in the treatment group had significantly lower measures of aggressive and disruptive behavior following participation in the intervention compared with students in the comparison group who did not participate.
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Meta-Analysis Methodology

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Meta-Analysis Snapshot
 Literature Coverage DatesNumber of StudiesNumber of Study Participants
Meta-Analysis 11976 - 2004730

Meta-Analysis 1
Wilson and Lipsey (2006) reviewed studies that met the following definitional criteria of social information- processing:
  1. The program includes training in at least one of the social information-processing steps: (1) encoding situational and internal cues, (2) interpreting the situational and internal cues, (3) choosing or clarifying a goal, (4) producing or accessing possible responses to meet the goal chosen, (5) selecting a response, and (6) executing the behavior. 
  2. Rather than targeting specific behavioral skills, the program emphasizes cognitive/thinking skills. Through teaching cognitive and thinking skills, social information-processing interventions aim to prove a student’s ability to process information in a variety of social situations.
  3. The program includes structured tasks and activities to teach cognitive skills to students. Students then have the opportunity to apply the skills learned to actual social situations. 
If an intervention met the definitional criteria set, the social information-processing component had to be the focus of the intervention. These interventions had to be delivered to school-aged children during regular school hours (afterschool programs were not eligible). The evaluation had to measure at least one outcome variable of aggressive behavior, which could include violence, aggression, fighting, person crimes, disruptive behavior problems, acting out, conduct disorder, and/or externalizing problems. Finally, only studies with a comparison group were eligible. Both experimental and quasi-experimental designs were eligible; however, quasi-experimental designs had to match students or provide evidence of group equivalence on key demographic variables.  

A comprehensive search of bibliographic databases, bibliographies of previous meta-analyses, and literature reviews was conducted. Both published and unpublished reports were included in the search, which was not limited to the English language. The search strategy used three categories of search terms to index articles for each specific database. These categories included a population of interest, risks or outcomes, and treatment/evaluations.  

The search yielded 89 eligible reports, which gave the results of 73 studies of universal school-based, social information-processing programs that were included in the meta-analysis. Six studies used individual random assignment to place students in the treatment versus control group; while 26 used random assignment at the class level, and 41 used a nonrandomized (quasi-experimental) design. The age of subjects ranged from 4 to 16, and a variety of racial and ethnic groups were represented. Fifteen percent of the programs were delivered in special education settings, and approximately half of all included students were from predominately low-socioeconomic- status families.   

A random-effects mean was used to examine the impact of universal school-based, social information-processing on aggressive or disruptive behavior. The most common type of measure of aggressive or disruptive behavior was a teacher-report questionnaire. Most of the studies generated more than one effect size for aggressive behavior. These multiple measures were either different aspects of aggressive behavior or were the same type of behavior reported by different informants (i.e., teachers, or self-reports from students). When results of different types of aggressive behavior were presented in the studies, the review authors selected the effect sizes that most closely represented interpersonal physical aggression and disregarded the others. Further, different effect sizes from different informants were not averaged; instead, one effect size was selected from the informant most frequently represented in the data. If there was more than one effect size from the same informant, the mean value was used. This procedure resulted in 73 effect sizes that are included in this meta-analysis.  
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Cost

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There is no cost information available for this practice.
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Other Information

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Wilson and Lipsey (2006) also conducted additional tests—called moderator analyses—to see if any factors strengthened the likelihood that universal school-based social information processing interventions improved outcomes. They looked at study characteristics, student characteristics, amount and quality of treatment, and treatment elements. With regard to student characteristics, they found that low-socioeconomic-status children or children attending schools in low-socioeconomic- status neighborhoods had significantly greater reductions in aggressive and disruptive behavior after participating in social information-processing programs than children from working- and middle-class families. With regard to the amount of treatment, they found that programs with more frequent treatment sessions per week tended to be more effective at producing reductions in aggressive and disruptive behavior. The authors did not find other factors that played a significant role in improving outcomes.
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Evidence-Base (Meta-Analyses Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the practice profile:

Meta-Analysis 1
Wilson, Sandra Jo, and Mark W. Lipsey. 2006. The Effects of School-Based Social Information Processing Interventions on Aggressive Behavior, Part I: Universal Programs. The Campbell Collaboration. 
http://www.campbellcollaboration.org/lib/project/14/
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the practice profile:

Crick, Nicki R., and Kenneth A. Dodge. 1994. “A Review and Reformulation of Social Information-Processing Mechanisms in Children’s Social Adjustment.” Psychological Bulletin 115(1): 74–101.


Dodge, Kenneth A., and Nicki R. Crick. 1990. “Social Information-Processing Bases of Aggressive Behavior in Children.”  Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 16(1): 8­–22.
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Related Programs

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Following are CrimeSolutions.gov-rated programs that are related to this practice:

Aban Aya Youth Project Promising - One study
A school- and community-based program developed specifically for African American youth to avoid conflict and reduce drug/alcohol use. The program is rated Promising. Boys receiving one of the treatment conditions showed less of an increase in provoking behavior, school delinquency, substance use, and early sexual activity/risky sexual activity than those receiving the control condition. There were significant program effects for all problem behaviors for boys receiving community intervention.

Responding in Peaceful and Positive Ways (RIPP) Promising - One study
A school-based program designed to provide conflict-resolution strategies and skills to prevent violence to students in middle and junior high schools. The program is rated Promising. The experiment group had less disciplinary code violations related to violence in the 8th grade, showed significantly higher approval of nonviolence, and lower aggression at the 9-month follow-up.

Promoting Alternative THinking Strategies (PATHS®) Effective - More than one study
A prevention program that promotes emotional and social competencies and reduces aggression and behavior problems in elementary school-aged children. The program is rated Effective. Children in the intervention group had less peer-rated aggression and more social competence. Intervention classrooms had a more positive atmosphere, a higher level of interest and enthusiasm, and a greater ability to stay focused than comparison group classrooms.

Al’s Pals: Kids Making Healthy Choices Promising - One study
An early childhood curriculum designed to increase the protective factor of social and emotional competence in young children and to decrease the risk factor of early and persistent aggression or antisocial behavior.

I Can Problem Solve (ICPS) Promising - More than one study
A school-based prevention program that trains children in generating a variety of solutions to problems. The program is rated Promising. The treatment group had significantly greater problem-solving, self-regulation and understanding of consequences scores. There was greater adjustment and improved behavior, and social bonding at school; but no significant differences for social competence between groups.

SMART Team No Effects - One study
A multimedia software program that engages young teenagers in learning new skills to resolve conflicts and avoid violence. The program is rated No Effects. There were no significant differences in aggressive behavior between the treatment and control group.

The Peacemakers Program Promising - One study
A school-based violence reduction intervention for grades 4 through 8. The program’s primary objectives were to prevent violence and improve interpersonal behavior among youth. The program is rated Promising. There was a significant decrease in self-reported measures of aggression; an increase in psychosocial skills; a decrease in disciplinary incidents; less involvement in conflict mediation; and fewer suspensions for violent behavior compared with the control group.
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Practice Snapshot

Age: 4 - 16

Gender: Both

Race/Ethnicity: Asian/Pacific Islander, Black, Hispanic, Other, White

Settings: School

Practice Type: Classroom Curricula, Conflict Resolution/Interpersonal Skills, Leadership and Youth Development, Violence Prevention

Unit of Analysis: Persons