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Practice Profile

Targeted School-Based Social Information-Processing Interventions for Aggression

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:

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

Practice Description

Practice Goals
Targeted (Selected and Indicated) School-Based Social Information-Processing Interventions are violence prevention programs that aim to improve one or more aspects of students’ social information-processing difficulties. Targeted prevention involves directing prevention efforts toward particular students who are at risk for aggressive or violent behavior, or who are already exhibiting these behaviors. Social information processing refers to how individuals (in this case, children) interpret and process social situations. It is believed that children with aggression fail to process the information received from peers and others during social interactions, which leads to aggressive behavior (Dodge and Crick 1990). 

Overall, the goal of these interventions is to improve the social behavior of these targeted school-aged children, and thereby reduce their negative behaviors (such as aggression and violent behavior) that are thought to be the result of cognitive deficits in social information processing (Wilson and Lipsey 2006).

Practice Components
Social information-processing programs 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 chosen goal, 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. 
It is important to distinguish social information-processing programs from interventions with similar features. For example, interventions that target behavioral–social skills are different from social information-processing interventions in that the behavioral–social skills interventions focus on social or antisocial behaviors, whereas social information-processing programs focus on the underlying cognitive processes. Similarly, social information-processing interventions are different from other cognitively oriented programs in that the cognitive programs focus on thinking skills, but do not focus on the interpersonal relationships, which is a defining feature of social information processing.

Target Population
In contrast to universal prevention programs, selected and indicated interventions target particular students. Selected interventions are delivered to students who are selected as a result of the presence of some risk factor that is believed to be associated with later aggressive or violent behavior. Indicated interventions also involve targeting particular students, but involve students who already exhibit the aggressive or violent behavior. Although these interventions are delivered at school during regular school hours, they are typically delivered outside of the classroom and may involve individual sessions or group sessions.

Practice Theory
Targeted social information-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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Effective - One Meta-Analysis Juvenile Problem & At-Risk Behaviors - Aggression
Wilson and Lipsey (2006) found that targeted (selected and indicated) school-based social information-processing interventions had a statistically significant impact on aggressive behavior. Through aggregating the results of 47 studies, the authors found an overall effect size of 0.26, meaning that students in the treatment groups had significantly lower measures of aggressive and disruptive behaviors than comparison subjects who did not participate in the intervention.
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Meta-Analysis Methodology

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Meta-Analysis Snapshot
 Literature Coverage DatesNumber of StudiesNumber of Study Participants
Meta-Analysis 11974 - 2004470

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, then 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. Special education classrooms and alternative schools were eligible school settings, whereas classrooms in residential facilities and for afterschool programs were not eligible. Further, the intervention had to be delivered to students who were selected for treatment as a result of a risk factor linked to antisocial behavior or to students who were displaying problem behaviors. 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. Control groups could include placebo, wait-list, no treatment, or treatment as usual conditions.  

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 68 eligible reports, which gave the results of 47 unique research studies. The majority of the studies used random assignment of individual students. Programs were mainly conducted using group formats in regular schools; however, seven programs were either one-on-one or included individual as well as group sessions. Five programs were conducted with special education students. Treatment duration ranged from 8 weeks to programs lasting the entire school year or more. Students’ ages ranged from 6 to 16, and the samples were predominately male. Of the samples who reported race/ethnicity, more than one half comprised minority youth: black (32 percent), white (28 percent), Hispanic (4 percent), Asian (2 percent), and mixed (4 percent). The race/ethnicity of the remaining 30 percent of the samples was non-distinguishable. 

A random effects mean was used to examine the impact of selected and indicated social information-processing programs on aggressive and disruptive behavior. Thirty-two studies generated more than one effect size, whereas 15 studies provided only a single effect size. The most common type of measure was the teacher-report questionnaire, though many studies provided results for more than one aggressive behavior outcome. The multiple measures of aggressive and disruptive behavior within studies were either different types of aggressive behavior or were the same type of aggressive behavior reported by different informants. When studies reported results on different types of aggressive behavior, the effect size that closely resembled interpersonal physical aggression was selected. Each informant was used as a variable in the analysis, so when there was more than one effect size from the same informant, their mean value was used. In studies with multiple effect sizes reported by different informants, one effect size was selected by the informant who was more frequently represented in the data. This usually happened to be teacher reports, followed by self-report from participants. This procedure resulted in 47 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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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 II: Selected/Indicated Pull-Out Programs. The Campbell Collaboration. http://www.campbellcollaboration.org/lib/download/73/

http://www.campbellcollaboration.org/lib/download/73/
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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: 6 - 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, School/Classroom Environment, Violence Prevention

Unit of Analysis: Persons