Program

Dec 21, 2012

OVERVIEW

The Metropolitan Area Child Study (MACS) is a research trial program made up of several component programs all designed to prevent aggression in children and early adolescents.  The full program curriculum consists of a classroom curriculum, small group peer-skills training, and family counseling.  An experimental evaluation of the MACS program found that it was effective in reducing aggression in urban-poor neighborhoods with high levels of school and community resources.  In poor urban neighborhoods with low levels of school and community resources, the program either had no impact or negative impacts on aggression levels.  The program had limited impacts on academic achievement outcomes.  The curricula was not found to reduce aggression among fifth and sixth graders.

DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM

Target population: Elementary school children from disadvantaged inner-city and urban-poor areas

The full MACS program consists of 3 different interventions designed to prevent childhood aggression.  The first component is a classroom curriculum called “Yes I Can” which aims to help children understand the feelings of others’, teach children social problem solving skills, and reduce aggression as an acceptable method of dealing with problems.  The classroom curriculum is delivered over 2 school-years.  The second component program is a series of small group sessions in which students meet and discuss peer relations and how to problem solve when problematic interactions occur.  In these sessions, children meet with graduate-level student instructors 28 times during two school years.  The final intervention program is described thoroughly in another research article (Tolan & McKay, 1996) and consists of a series of family intervention meetings.  In these meetings, families first meet in groups to receive the week’s lesson, and then families meet individually with counselors to discuss family-specific problems.  This phase of the program consists of 22 weekly sessions.

EVALUATION(S) OF PROGRAM

Metropolitan Area Child Study Research Group (2002).  A cognitive-ecological approach to preventing aggression in urban settings: Initial outcomes for high-risk children.  Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 70(1), 179-194.

Evaluated population: 2,181 elementary school students who were classified as “high-risk” by the researchers were selected from 16 schools evenly split between inner-city Chicago neighborhoods and urban-poor areas of Aurora, Illinois.  The sample was 61 percent male and was composed of 48 percent African-American, 37 percent Hispanic, and 16 percent non-Hispanic white students.  Depending on the school, between 33 and 100 percent of children were participating in a free lunch program.

Approach: The researchers first selected 16 Chicago area schools and blocked them based on community location (North and South Chicago, and East and West Aurora) and ethnicity (African-American and mixed ethnicity).  Blocks of four schools, composed of one of each demographic type of school, were then randomly assigned to one of three treatment conditions or a control group.  In the research trial, the program was delivered at three different levels to measure some differences between components of the program.  The intervention conditions were general enhancement classroom program (level A), general enhancement plus small group peer-skills training (level B), or general enhancement with small group training and a family intervention (level C).  The intervention conditions built upon one another so that program effects of each could be examined individually.  The study did have a moderate level of attrition which caused the researchers to analyze much of the data using subsets of the populations to prevent biasing the results.  The intervention, as described above, lasted for 8 years and consisted of 8 cohorts of children.  Children were assessed on two measures of aggression (peer rated and teacher rated) and academic achievement.

Results: At the early intervention period in grades 1 through 4, the program had no overall impacts on levels of aggression.  At the late intervention period in grades 5 and 6, the program did not have any positive impacts on aggression. Participants in the level B program were rated as being significantly more aggressive than those in the control group.  For children who received both the early and late stage intervention, the program also had no overall impacts on aggression.

There were, however, several impacts of the program on different subgroups in the study.  The level C program, when delivered at either the early or early+late intervention periods, had a significant positive impact on aggression levels for children attending schools with higher school and community resources, in the case of this study, Aurora schools.  This impact was not found for the Chicago schools in the sample, which had lower resources.  Children in Chicago schools who received the level C treatment during both the early and the late intervention periods were rated as being more aggressive than their counterparts in the control group.  No gender interactions were found.

In terms of achievement, children receiving the level A intervention in grades 1 through 4 had greater increases in academic achievement scores compared with those in the control group.  The level B and C interventions had no impact on achievement.  None of the three programs had an impact for children receiving the intervention in both grades 1 through 4 and 5 through 6 and those receiving the intervention in only grades 5 through 6.

Grant, S. H., Van Acker, R., Guerra, N., Duplechain, R., Coen, M. (1998) A school and classroom enhancement program to prevent the development of antisocial behavior in children from high-risk neighborhoods. Preventing School Failure, 42(3), 121-127.

Evaluated population: 847 children in grades 2 through 6 who were classified as high-risk for aggressive behavior were evaluated.

Approach: This article reports preliminary findings from the first six cohorts of the Metropolitan Area Child Study (the complete methodology is described above).

This article only reports aggression outcomes for the general enhancement classroom program (level A) schools and control schools. Pretest and posttest teacher ratings of aggression are used.

Results: The level A intervention did not have a significant main effect on aggression. The researchers examined whether the program had different effects for children with different initial levels of aggression. They found that intervention school children who had high pretest aggression scores had significantly lower posttest aggression scores than control school children.

SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION

References:

Metropolitan Area Child Study Research Group (2002).  A cognitive-ecological approach to preventing aggression in urban settings: Initial outcomes for high-risk children.  Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 70(1), 179-194.

Grant, S. H., Van Acker, R., Guerra, N., Duplechain, R., Coen, M. (1998) A school and classroom enhancement program to prevent the development of antisocial behavior in children from high-risk neighborhoods. Preventing School Failure, 42(3), 121-127.

KEYWORDS: Children (3-11), Adolescence (12-17), Elementary School, Middle School, School-based, Skills Training, Counseling/Therapy, Family Therapy, Parent or family component, Education, Behavioral Problems, Aggression, High-Risk, Urban, African American/Black, Hispanic/Latino, White/Caucasian, Academic Achievement, Males and Females (co-ed)

Program information last updated 12/21/12.

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