Oct 21, 2011


The foundation for this problem solving skills intervention is in social-cognitive theory (SCT).  The intervention aims to help sixth-grade students recognize and manage real-life stressors with problem-solving skills to promote positive mental health.  This intervention consists of three, 45-minute sessions in which students engage in brainstorming, discussions, skills scenarios, and assignments.  An experimental evaluation of the SCT-based intervention reveals that it is more influential than a knowledge-based intervention in developing problem-solving skills (PSS) in this sample.


Target Population: Sixth grade students

The social-cognitive theory based program in this study aims to develop problem-solving skills in sixth-grade students.  It teaches students to 1) recognize stressors, 2) have the knowledge and skills needed to perform problem-solving, 3) believe that using problem-solving will be beneficial, 4) value the expected consequences of problem-solving, 5) be confident in their abilities to problem solve, and 6) reward themselves for using (PSS).  Students receive the intervention in their classrooms in 45-minute sessions delivered once a week for three weeks.  The first session includes brainstorming about stressors, explanation of the PSS steps, and a discussion about the benefits of using PSS.  Take home assignments include activities that help students identify personal stressors and review the steps of PSS are given.  The second session consists of review, detailed application of PSS skills scenario, and discussions about the students’ role models and their application of PSS.  Children are assigned to apply PSS to a different scenario.  In the last session, students apply PSS to a third scenario, discuss self-reward and applying PSS in real life, and apply the process to one of their own problems.


Sharma, M., Petosa, R., & Heaney, C.A. (1999). Evaluation of a brief intervention based on social-cognitive theory to develop problem-solving skills among sixth grade children. Health Education & Behavior, 26(4), 465-477.

Evaluated population:  In total, 260 sixth-grade students from a Midwestern suburban school participated in the evaluation in their classrooms.  Students were primarily from White (92 percent), middle-class families.

Approach: Five sixth grade classrooms were randomly assigned to the SCT-based intervention, while the other five classrooms were assigned to the knowledge-based intervention.  The knowledge-based intervention consisted of three, 45-minute sessions that focused on enhancing students’ knowledge about stressors and the advantages of the problem-solving steps through presentations, note-taking, and assignments.  The teachers and students were not aware of the treatment group status of each class, and both interventions were delivered by the same health educator.  Pre- and posttest data were collected through self-administered questionnaires one week before the intervention and one week after from 100 percent of the students.  Outcomes measured included constructs of SCT, PSS, and application of PSS to real-life problems.  At pretest, PSS was the only variable out of six to differ between groups, and it was therefore controlled as a covariate in subsequent comparisons of SCT constructs over time for the two groups.

Results: The SCT-based intervention statistically improved students’ expectations of PSS, self-efficacy for PSS, and PSS.  There were no significant changes for situation perception of stressor, self-efficacy for overcoming barriers while applying PSS, and self-control for applying PSS.  Significantly more students in the SCT-based intervention group thought of more solutions to real-life problems and applied PSS in the real world.  The knowledge-based intervention had no impact on developing PSS or the antecedents of PSS.



Sharma, M., Petosa, R., & Heaney, C.A. (1999). Evaluation of a brief intervention based on social-cognitive theory to develop problem-solving skills among sixth grade children. Health Education & Behavior, 26(4), 465-477.

KEYWORDS: Children (3-11), Middle School, White/Caucasian, Suburban, School-Based, Skills Training, Social Skills/Life Skills

Program information last updated on 10/21/11.