Dec 15, 2008

(formerly Attribution Program)


The BrainPower Program (formerly the Attribution Program) is a theory-driven, conduct-problem prevention program that seeks to minimize the tendency to misattribute the intents of peers in various social situations and reduce peer-directed aggression. It has been implemented with elementary school children (primarily ethnic minority boys), but could be adapted for use with other populations. Informed by the social information-processing model, this program hypothesizes that, by reducing children’s likelihood of attributing inaccurate or hostile intent, they will be much less likely to display aggression toward their peers. Findings from two randomized studies suggest that the program is effective in reducing aggressive behavior and social cognitions and improving self control in ethnic-minority children from disadvantaged economic backgrounds.


Target population: Boys enrolled in the third through the sixth grade.

BrainPower is a 12-lesson attribution retraining program that includes activities designed to change the way in which children process social information. There are three major curriculum components: a) understanding the intentions of others and searching for and identifying social cues; b) determining whether something is an accident; and c) identifying appropriate, nonaggressive responses that could produce negative social outcomes. The program is comprised of 12, 60-minute lessons, which are implemented twice weekly over the course of six weeks.


Study 1: Hudley, C., & Graham, S. (1993). An Attributional Intervention to Reduce Peer-Directed Aggression among African-American Boys. Child Development, 64, 124-138.

Evaluated Population: 101 9- to 11-year-old African American boys (Grades 4 to 6), who were enrolled at two elementary schools in the greater Los Angeles area. Approximately one-third of students attending these schools qualified for a free lunch program.

Approach: This is a pre-test/post-test experimental study. The study sample was selected on the basis of teacher- and peer-rated aggressive behavior. Aggressive (n=72) and nonaggressive (n=36) students participated in the study. Students were classified as aggressive if they were rated high (above the median) on aggression and low (below the median) on social preference. In contrast, students were classified as nonaggressive if thescored low on aggression, high on social preference, and high on prosocial behavior.

Aggressive and nonaggressive students in each school were randomized to one of three experimental conditions: one intervention group (Attribution Retraining Program – AP) and two comparison groups (a nonsocial problem solving group and a no-attention control group).

Teacher ratings of students’ aggression, prosocial behavior, and school performance, children’s self-reported attributions, and disciplinary records were obtained at pre-test and post-test. Teachers’ behavioral ratings were obtained using three subscales of a teacher survey. Children’s attributions were measured using a questionnaire that asked students to judge the intent of the provocateur in three hypothetical scenarios which were either ambiguous or accidental. In addition, laboratory simulation tasks allowed the measurement of children’s verbal, peer-directed aggression in response to a cooperative task designed to elicit frustration. Logs of formal disciplinary referrals were also reviewed.

Results: The program resulted in emotional, social-cognitive, and behavioral improvements. Aggressive boys in the AP condition had significantly lower self-reported anger at posttest compared to pretest than boys in the other two conditions. In addition, the program decreased hostile intentions and favorable endorsements of aggression. Finally, compared to aggressive boys in the two other conditions, aggressive boys in the AP condition had less observed negative verbal behavior in a peer provocation task and less teacher-rated reactive aggression. No impact on formal disciplinary referrals was found. The authors hypothesized that the positive findings of the peer provocation task suggest generalization to actual situations involving ambiguous peer provocations.

Study 2: Hudley, C., Britsch, B., Wakefield, W. D., Smith, T., Demorat, M., & Cho, S. (1998). An Attribution Retraining Program to Reduce Aggression in Elementary School Students. Psychology in the Schools, 35(3), 271-282.

Evaluated Population: The study included 384 boys attending third through sixth grades in four urban elementary schools located in Southern California. Each school was about 85% African American and 15% Latino. All were either lower-middle class or low-income.

Approach: This is a pre-test/post-test experimental study with multiple follow ups.Sample selection processes replicated those implemented in Study 1. Also like Study 1, both aggressive and nonaggressive students in each school were randomized to one of three experimental conditions: a) the Attribution Retraining Program – AP, b) a nonsocial problem-solving comparison group, and c) a no-attention control group.Teacher ratings of students’ self control and children’s self-reported attributions were collected at baseline, post-test, and at 6- and 12-month follow ups.

Results: The BrainPower program improved teacher ratings of self control and decreased biased attributions. The program led to increased self control among aggressive students at posttest and at the 12-month follow up. Although, changes in overall ratings of behavior did not reach statistical significance, they were considered to be clinically significant (e.g., pre- to post-test change in behavior was 43% for the AP group and only 21% and 18% for the other two comparison groups). In addition, BrainPower was effective in reducing the hostile attributions of aggressive and nonaggressive students at posttest, however this impact was not maintained at the 12-month follow up.


Link to program:


Study 1: Hudley, C., & Graham, S. (1993). An Attributional Intervention to Reduce Peer-Directed Aggression among African-American Boys. Child Development, 64, 124-138.

Study 2: Hudley, C., Britsch, B., Wakefield, W. D., Smith, T., Demorat, M., & Cho, S. (1998). An attribution retraining program to reduce aggression in elementary school students. Psychology in the Schools, 35(3), 271-282.

Keywords: manual, Male, Aggression/Violence/Externalizing Problems, Clinic-based, children, elementary, Black/African American

Program information last updated on 12/15/08.

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