Program

Jul 15, 2011

OVERVIEW

Making Choices
is a school-based, social skills training program designed to foster problem
solving and pro-social behavior in children and interrupt developmental
trajectories leading from early aggressive behavior and peer rejection to more
serious behavioral problems. The program targets two risk factors in the
development of conduct problems–childhood deficits in social information
processing skills and social rejection by pro-social peer groups. The Making
Choices program was found to have a positive impact on post-test scores of
social contact and cognitive concentration. Further, children who received the
intervention also demonstrated significantly lower overt aggression.
Interaction effects indicated that children who scored lower in the pretest
(identified as high risk) demonstrated significant post-test gains in social
contact, social competence, cognitive concentration, and peer acceptance, as
well as significant decreases in overt aggression.

DESCRIPTION
OF PROGRAM

Target
population: 
Children in early elementary to early middle school.

The Making
Choices program is a problem-solving training curriculum that consists of 31 lessons
that focus on teaching children to build friendships, work productively in
groups, and respond positively to new social situations. The instruction
includes group activities and discussion, games, stories, and role playing. The
curriculum is designed for use in classroom or small group settings, and
sessions are typically facilitated by teachers, school counselors,
psychologists, or social workers.

Making Choices comes with a teaching manual that guides instructors through each lesson and
activity and includes a focus on how aggressive children may be deficient in the
skills needed for each step. The manual also contains copy-ready materials for
each activity.

EVALUATION(S)
OF PROGRAM

Smokowski, P.R.,
Fraser, M.W., Day, S.H., Galinsky, M.J., & Bacallao, M.L. (2004). School-Based
Skills Training to Prevent Aggressive Behavior and Peer Rejection in Childhood:
Evaluating the Making Choices Program. Journal of Primary Prevention, 25(2),233-251.

Evaluated
population: 
This efficacy study was conducted with four third grade
classrooms (N=101) in a mid-sized elementary school in a rural county of a state
in the Southeastern United States. Roughly one-quarter of the students at the
school qualified for a free and reduced lunch and approximately one-third of the
students were considered racial and ethnic minorities. The mean age of the
children in the study was 8.5 years. 54 percent of the sample was female; 46
percent was male. 68 percent of the sample was European American; 22 percent was
African American; 5 percent was Latino; and 3 percent was Native American or
Asian.

Approach:
The four third grade classrooms were randomly assigned (2 each) to the
intervention or the control. 51 students in two classrooms received the Making Choices program as part of their Health curriculum. The lessons were
taught by a Masters-level social work student, who was hired and trained for the
research project. Students received 45 minutes lessons each week from September
to May. The 50 students in the two control classrooms received the standard
health curriculum without the Making Choices program.

Teachers evaluated
all children in their classrooms at the beginning and end of the year using the
Carolina Child Checklist–Teacher Form (CCC-TF). The CCC-TF is a 42-item
instrument that measures the risk and protective factors related to aggressive
behavior in children ages 6-12. This instrument includes the scales used in this
study: social contact (the extent of interaction and play with others);
cognitive concentration (ability to concentrate, stay on task and complete
assignments); social competence (ability to interact, understand others’
feelings, and express needs and feeling appropriately); aggression (behavior
such as fighting or breaking things); and peer acceptance (how much a child is
liked by his or her classmates). The CCC-TF was done prior to and after the
intervention.

Results: At
post-test, the Making Choices intervention had positive impacts on social
contact, cognitive concentration, and overt aggression, net of the pre-test
scores. There were no significant impacts in the full sample for social
competence or peer acceptance. Subgroup analysis (using interaction effects)
revealed that high-risk children (those who scored lower on the pre-intervention
CCC-TF) demonstrated significant post-test gains in all domains: social contact,
social competence, cognitive concentration, overt aggression, and peer
acceptance. Although random assignment was done with classrooms and the
analysis was done for students, a caveat is that the study lacked sufficient
statistical power for multi-level models.

SOURCES FOR
MORE INFORMATION

References:

Smokowski, P.R.,
Fraser, M.W., Day, S.H., Galinsky, M.J., & Bacallao, M.L. (2004). School-Based
Skills Training to Prevent Aggressive Behavior and Peer Rejection in Childhood:
Evaluating the Making Choices Program. Journal of Primary Prevention, 25(2),233-251.

Link to program
curriculum
:

http://ssw.unc.edu/jif/makingchoices/about-whatmc.htm

KEYWORDS:
Children; Elementary school; Middle school; Manual is available; Co-educational;
Skills Training; School-based; Aggression/Bullying; Other Behavioral Problems;
Conduct, Disruptive Disorders; Social skills/life skills, Rural and/or Small Towns

Program
information last updated 7/15/11.