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Program Profile: Good Behavior Game

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study Promising - One study

Date: This profile was posted on June 15, 2011

Program Summary

This is a classroom management strategy designed to reduce aggressive and disruptive classroom behavior and create a classroom environment that is conducive to learning for students, ages 6 to 10. The program is rated Promising. At the 14-year follow up, the treatment group had statistically significant reductions in levels of alcohol-related disorders and antisocial personality disorder compared with participants in the control group.

This program’s rating is based on evidence that includes at least one high-quality randomized controlled trial.

Program Description

Program Goals
Good Behavior Game (GBG) is a classroom management strategy designed to reduce aggressive and disruptive classroom behavior and create a classroom environment that is conducive to learning for all students. GBG attempts to reduce children’s negative behaviors and promote prosocial behaviors by encouraging positive interactions with peers and by improving teachers’ ability to define tasks, set rules, and discipline students. GBG is implemented when children are in early elementary grades to provide them with the skills they need to respond to later life experiences and societal influences that may be negative.

The program seeks to reduce early risk factors (i.e., aggressive and disruptive classroom behavior) that can lead to later problem behaviors such as criminal/delinquent activity and substance use. The reduction in problem behaviors can also lead to a reduction in use of services for those behaviors, such as drug treatment.

Target Population
The program is universal and can be applied to general populations of early elementary school children, ages 6 to 10.

Program Components
GBG is a group-contingent reinforcement classroom management strategy in which students are assigned to work in teams, and each individual is responsible to the rest of his or her team for its success. It is understood that the entire team will be rewarded if they are found to be following classroom rules. This strategy creates incentive for students to manage their own behavior through group reinforcement and mutual self-interest.

Before the game begins, teachers clearly specify those disruptive behaviors (e.g., verbal and physical disruptions, noncompliance) that, if displayed, will result in a team’s receiving a checkmark on the board. Team members are encouraged to support each other's efforts at appropriate behavior. By the end of the game, teams that have not exceeded the maximum number of marks are rewarded, while teams that exceed this standard receive no rewards. Rewards change over the course of the year from being tangible (such as stickers or erasers) to being more intrinsically related to the classroom setting, such as having additional quiet time to read during the school day.

GBG is implemented in three phases. In the introduction phase, children and teachers are familiarized with the GBG intermittently and for short periods. In the expansion phase, the duration of the GBG, the settings in which the GBG is played, and the behaviors targeted by the GBG are expanded. In the generalization phase, compliance with classroom rules outside GBG periods is encouraged by explaining to children that the GBG rules are applicable even when the game is not played. Eventually, the teacher begins the game with no warning and at different periods during the day, so that students will continue to monitor their behavior and conform to expectations.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
Lifetime Alcohol Abuse/Dependence Disorders
At the 14-year follow up, Kellman and colleagues (2008) found that the Good Behavior Game (GBG) treatment group participants had lower scores for lifetime alcohol abuse or dependence disorders, compared with participants in the control group. This difference was statistically significant.

Lifetime Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD) Rates
Participants in the GBG treatment group had lower scores for ASPD, compared with participants in the control group at the 14-year follow up. This difference was statistically significant.
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
Kellam and colleagues (2008) used a randomized controlled design to examine the effects of the Good Behavior Game (GBG) on the prevalence of lifetime alcohol abuse or dependence disorders and antisocial personality disorder at a 14-year follow-up survey. The researchers began the initial evaluation of GBG in the 1985–1986 school year by selecting five urban areas within Baltimore City, Md. From a total of 19 schools, the three or four most similar schools were identified within each of the five urban areas and randomly assigned to one of the following three conditions: 1) GBG; 2) the Mastery Learning (ML) program, which was designed to improve poor reading achievement; and 3) an external control condition with no experimental intervention. Both interventions were administered at the classroom level. To avoid confounding intervention status with school effects, classrooms in the intervention schools (GBG and ML schools) were divided into two types: intervention classes (GBG or ML) and internal control classes (classes in the same school that did not receive either intervention). Individual first-grade classrooms were randomly assigned to intervention or internal control groups within the intervention schools.

This multilevel design originally included 19 schools, 41 classrooms, and 1,196 students within five urban areas. The initial sample of students was 49 percent male, and 65 percent black, 31 percent white, and 4 percent other ethnic groups. Children ranged in age from 5.0 to 9.7 years, with an average age of 6.6 years. There were no statistically significant differences between the intervention groups on baseline characteristics of teacher ratings of aggressive, disruptive behavior, fall-of-first-grade achievement, or free/reduced-price lunch. There were statistically significant differences between GBG students and internal control students on measures of depressive symptoms with control students demonstrating slightly higher levels of depression; however, the authors concluded that the small effect size and small correlation between aggression and depressive symptoms minimized the potential confounding effect.

At the 14-year follow up, analyses focused on 689 of the original 922 students who were either in GBG classrooms or included in one of the three control groups for the 2-year trial period. The 689 children included 183 who were assigned to the eight GBG classrooms and 126 children assigned to the six internal control classrooms within the six GBG schools, and the 380 additional children who were in external or ML control classrooms. Most of the students lost to follow up had moved out of the system. A small number of others refused to participate in the study.

The primary outcomes, lifetime alcohol use/dependence disorders and antisocial personality disorder, were measured using the Composite International Diagnostic Interview-University of Michigan version (Kessler et al. 1994). The authors conducted subgroup analyses on gender and level of aggression and disruptive behavior during childhood.
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Cost

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Information on cost is available at the Good Behavior Game website: https://www.goodbehaviorgame.org/
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Implementation Information

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More information about training can be found at the Good Behavior Game website: https://www.goodbehaviorgame.org/training
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Other Information (Including Subgroup Findings)

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In 2012, the Good Behavior Game (GBG) received a final program rating of Effective based on a review of two studies: Kellam and colleagues (1994) and Witvliet and colleagues (2009). However, these two studies examined outcomes by subgroup (specifically looking at program effects by gender). Under the CrimeSolutions.gov review process, only the full study sample is scored (even if the study authors state clearly an “a priori” theoretical rationale for why the program or practice would be expected to work for a given subgroup and not another).

In 2019, a rereview of the program using three different studies (Kellam, et al.2008; Poduska et al. 2008; and Wilcox et al. 2008) and the updated CrimeSolutions.gov Program Scoring Instrument resulted in a new final rating of Promising. Studies that are rated as Promising have some evidence to indicate that programs achieve their intended outcomes.

With regard to subgroup findings, Kellam and colleagues (2008) found that participation in the GBG resulted in statistically significant reductions in levels of lifetime drug abuse/dependence disorders for male participants, but not for female participants, compared with individuals in the control group. Furthermore, GBG males who were rated as highly aggressive and disruptive by their first-grade teachers had statistically significant reductions in levels of lifetime drug abuse/dependence, compared with aggressive and disruptive control group males.
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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

Study 1
Kellam, Sheppard G., C. Hendricks Brown, Jeanne M. Poduska, Nicholas S. Ialongo, Wei Wang, Peter Toyinbo, Hanno Petras, Carla Ford, Amy Windham, and Holly C. Wilcox. 2008. “Effects of a Universal Classroom Behavior Management Program in First and Second Grades on Young Adult Behavioral, Psychiatric, and Social Outcomes.” Drug and Alcohol Dependence 95 (Supplement 1):S5–S28.
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Additional References

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

Bradshaw, Catherine P., Jessika H. Zmuda, Sheppard G. Kellam, and Nicholas S. Ialongo. 2009. “Longitudinal Impact of Two Universal Preventive Interventions in First Grade on Educational Outcomes in High School.” Journal of Educational Psychology 101(4):926–37.

Brown, C. Hendricks, Sheppard G. Kellam, Nicholas S. Ialongo, Jeanne M. Poduska, and Carla Ford. 2007. “Prevention of Aggressive Behavior Through Middle School Using a First-Grade Classroom-Based Intervention.” In M. T. Tsuang, W.S. Stone, and M. J. Lyons (eds.). Recognition and Prevention of Major Mental and Substance Use Disorders. Washington D.C.: American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc., 347–69.

Dolan, Lawrence J., Sheppard G. Kellam, C. Hendricks Brown, Lisa Werthamer, George W. Rebok, Lawrence S. Mayer, Jolene Laudoff, Jaylan Turkkan, Carla Ford, and Leonard Wheeler. 1993. “The Short-Term Impact of Two Classroom-Based Preventive Interventions on Aggressive and Shy Behaviors and Poor Achievement.” Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology 14:317–45.

Ialongo, Nicholas S., Jeanne M. Poduska, Lisa Werthamer, and Sheppard G. Kellam. 2001. “The Distal Impact of Two First Grade Preventive Interventions on Conduct Problems and Disorder in Early Adolescence.” Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders 9(3):146–60.

Kellam, Sheppard G., George W. Rebok, Nicholas S. Ialongo, and Lawrence S. Mayer. 1994. “The Course and Malleability of Aggressive Behavior From Early First Grade Into Middle School: Results of a Developmental Epidemiologically Based Preventive Trial.” Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 35:259–81.

Kellam, Sheppard G., and James C. Anthony. 1998. “Targeting Early Antecedents to Prevent Tobacco Smoking: Findings From an Epidemiologically Based Randomized Field Trial.” American Journal of Public Health 88(10):1491–95.

Kellam, Sheppard G., Xiange Ling, Rolande Merisca, C. Hendricks Brown, and Nicholas S. Ialongo. 1998. “The Effect of the Level of Aggression in the First Grade Classroom on the Course and Malleability of Aggressive Behavior Into Middle School.” Development and Psychopathology 10:165–85.

Kellam, Sheppard G., John Reid, and Robert L. Balster (eds.). 2008. “Effects of a Universal Classroom Behavior Program in First and Second Grades on Young Adult Outcomes.” Drug and Alcohol Dependence: An International Journal on Biomedical and Psychosocial Approaches 95(Supplement 1):S1–101.

Kellam, Sheppard G., Wei Wang, Amelia C.I. Mackenzie, C. Hendricks Brown, Danielle C. Ompad, Flora Or, Nicholas S. Ialongo, Jeanne M. Poduska, and Amy Windham. 2014. “The Impact of the Good Behavior Game, a Universal Classroom-Based Preventive Intervention in First and Second Grades, on High-Risk Sexual Behaviors and Drug Abuse and Dependence Disorders into Youth Adulthood.” Prevention Science 15(Supplement 1):S6–S18.

Kessler, R., K. McGonagle, S. Zhao, C.B. Nelson, M. Hughes, S. Eshleman, H. Wittchen, and K. Kendler. 1994. “Lifetime and 12-Month Prevalence of DSM-III-R Psychiatric Disorders in the United States.” Archives of General Psychiatry 51:8–19.

Petras, Hanno, Sheppard G. Kellam, C. Hendricks Brown, Bengt O. Muthen, Nicholas S. Ialongo, and Jeanne M. Poduska. 2008. “Developmental Epidemiological Courses Leading to Antisocial Personality Disorder and Violent and Criminal Behavior: Effects of Young Adulthood of a Universal Preventive Intervention in First and Second Grade Classrooms.” Drug and Alcohol Dependence 95(Supplement 1):S45–S59.

Poduska, Jeanne M., Sheppard G. Kellam, Wei Wang, C. Hendricks Brown, Nicholas S. Ialongo, and Peter Toyinbo. 2008. “Impact of the Good Behavior Game, a Universal Classroom-Based Behavior Intervention, on Young Adult Service Use for Problems With Emotions, Behavior, or Drugs or Alcohol.” Drug and Alcohol Dependence 95 (Supplement 1):S29–S44. (This study was reviewed but did not meet CrimeSolutions.gov criteria for inclusion in the overall program rating.)

Tingstrom, Daniel H., Heather E. Sterling–Turner, and Susan M. Wilczynski. 2006. “The Good Behavior Game: 1969–2002.” Behavior Modification 30(2):225–53.

Wilcox, Holly C., Sheppard G. Kellam, C. Hendricks Brown, Jeanne Poduska, Nicholas S. Ialongo, Wei Wang, and James C. Anthony. 2008. “The Impact of Two Universal Randomized First- and Second-Grade Classroom Interventions on Young Adult Suicide Ideation and Attempt.” Drug and Alcohol Dependence 95(Supplement 1):S60–S73. (This study was reviewed but did not meet CrimeSolutions.gov criteria for inclusion in the overall program rating.)

Witvliet, Miranda, Pol A.C. van Lier, Pim Cuijpers, and Hans M. Koot. 2009. “Testing Links Between Childhood Positive Peer Relations and Externalizing Outcomes Through a Randomized Controlled Study.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 77(5):905–15.
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Related Practices

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Following are CrimeSolutions.gov-rated practices that are related to this program:

Universal School-Based Prevention and Intervention Programs for Aggressive and Disruptive Behavior
Universal school-based prevention and intervention programs for aggressive and disruptive behavior target elementary, middle, and high school students in a universal setting, rather than focusing on only a selective group of students, with the intention of preventing or reducing violent, aggressive, or disruptive behaviors. The practice is rated Effective in reducing violent, aggressive, and/or disruptive behaviors in students.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Effective - More than one Meta-Analysis Juvenile Problem & At-Risk Behaviors



Universal Teacher Classroom Management Practices
This practice includes classroom management techniques and programs for teaching prosocial behaviors and reducing or preventing inappropriate or aggressive behaviors of students in K–12th grades. This practice is rated Effective in reducing disruptive, inappropriate, and aggressive behavior in students.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Effective - One Meta-Analysis Juvenile Problem & At-Risk Behaviors - Aggression



Early Self-Control Improvement Programs for Children
This practice consists of programs designed to increase self-control and reduce child behavior problems (e.g., conduct problems, antisocial behavior, and delinquency) with children up to age 10. Program types include social skills development, cognitive coping strategies, training/role playing, and relaxation training. This practice is rated Effective for improving self-control and reducing delinquency.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Effective - One Meta-Analysis Juvenile Problem & At-Risk Behaviors - Self-Control
Effective - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types



School-Based Interventions to Reduce Exclusion
School exclusion (more commonly known as suspension and expulsion) is broadly defined as a disciplinary measure imposed in reaction to students’ misbehavior. This practice comprises school-based programs that seek to decrease the prevalence of exclusion and thereby reduce the detrimental effects that suspensions or expulsion from schools may have on students’ learning outcomes and future training or employment opportunities. This practice is rated Effective for reducing school exclusion.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Effective - One Meta-Analysis Education - Expulsion/Suspension
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Program Snapshot

Age: 6 - 10

Gender: Both

Race/Ethnicity: Black, White, Other

Geography: Rural, Urban

Setting (Delivery): School

Program Type: Academic Skills Enhancement, Classroom Curricula, Conflict Resolution/Interpersonal Skills, School/Classroom Environment, Children Exposed to Violence

Targeted Population: Children Exposed to Violence

Current Program Status: Active

Listed by Other Directories: Child Exposure to Violence Evidence Based Guide, Model Programs Guide, Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development (formerly Blueprints for Violence Prevention)