Jul 14, 2011


The Social Problem-Solving (SPS) program was
designed to give children in elementary school with deficits in social
problem-solving the skills necessary to succeed in daily social interactions.
The SPS program specifically seeks to improve conflict resolution skills by
focusing on three areas of development: problem identification, alternative
solution generation, and anticipation of consequences. In the study outlined
below, three schools were randomly assigned. Analyses indicate that the Social
Problem-Solving program is effective in increasing the problem-solving skills of
alternative solution generation and consequential thinking. Positive impacts
were found for both the full package group and the video-only group, compared
with the control group. Mixed results were found with respect to teacher-rated
behavioral measures such as peer sociability and overall competence. In a
slightly older sample with two experimental groups (differing in dosage), the
group that met twice a week for 50 minutes was superior to the group that met
once a week for 90 minutes and to the control group in gains in comprehension.
However, the once a week group showed greater gains in activity competence,
compared with the twice a week group and the control group, and the once a week
group also improved more on externalizing symptoms, compared with the control
group. Both experimental groups also shower greater improvement compared with
the control group on generating problem solutions.


Target population:
Children in 2nd and 3rd
grades in suburban, lower middle class, primarily white schools

The SPS program is
designed to provide children with skills for effective conflict resolution as
well as social problem coping. The program has three main components to address
these goals: problem identification, alternative solution generation, and
anticipation of consequences. Within these three components, children are
taught problem-solving steps intended for daily use. These steps consist of
understanding the problem, deciding on a positive outcome, thinking before
acting, generating multiple solutions, understanding consequences of each
potential solution, and implementing an appropriate solution. Program sessions
includes a variety of interactive activities such as class discussion, video
instruction, role playing, and learning games.


Study 1

Gesten, E. L.,
Rains, M. H., Rapkin, B. D., Weissberg, R. P., Flores de Apocada, R., Cowen, E.
L., & Bowen, R. (1982). Training children in social problem-solving
competencies: A first and second look. American Journal of Community
Psychology, 10,

Evaluated population:
201 children in second and third grades. All
subjects were from lower middle class economic backgrounds and mostly white
suburban areas.

Three schools were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: full-package
curriculum (N=65), videotape-only curriculum (N=68), and control (N=68). The
full-package curriculum condition involved 17 sessions of 30 to 30 minutes each
which included interactive activities, videos, and discussions. The
videotape-only condition involved 5 sessions which lasted 40 minutes each. Each
session contained a short overview, video lesson, and class discussion. Control
groups received no treatment, but it is noted that discussions about conflicts
and problem solving were part of daily classroom activities. At 9 weeks,
children were assessed on measures of problem-solving abilities and behavioral
adjustment. At a one-year follow-up, 138 of the original study’s 201 children
were assessed again on these measures.

Students in the full-package condition generated more alternative solutions and
had improved consequential thinking when compared with students in both the
video-only and control conditions. At 9 weeks, students in the control group
outperformed students in the experimental condition on teacher-rated measures of
shyness-anxiousness, total problems, peer sociability, rule following,
frustration tolerance, and total competence. The researchers provide some
explanation of these results and attribute it partly to teachers’ knowledge of
assigned condition. This problem is corrected for in the second follow-up study
by blinding teachers to the students’ program involvement in the previous year.
The follow-up study randomly selected 138 students for follow-up assessments 12
months later. This follow-up found that the full-package group performed higher
than the video-only and control conditions on measures of consequential
thinking. Treatment groups performed better than control groups on 7 out of 10
teacher-rated behaviors. The small number of schools is a limitation.

Study 2

Yu, P., Harris,
G. E., et al. (1986). A social problem-solving intervention for children at high
risk for later psychopathology. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology 15,
1, 30-40

Thirty-five male psychiatric and clinic outpatients ages seven
to twelve were evaluated in this efficacy trial. Most of the children were from
single-parents families (61 percent); 40 percent were black, 54 percent were
white, and 6 percent were Hispanic families. The attrition rate was 35 percent.

The treatment condition was the Rochester Social Problem Solving Program, which
consisted of 34 structured lessons covering topics of understanding feelings,
recognizing problems, generating problem solutions, evaluating consequences, and
implementing solutions. Each lesson included an activity, such as a crossword
puzzle, role playing, group discussion, and drawing.

Participants were
assigned to two experimental groups (Group 1 N=6, Group 2 N=7) or a control
group (N=10). The first experimental group met twice a week for 50 minutes per
session, and the program duration was 20 weeks. The second group met once a week
for 90 minutes, and the program duration was 20 weeks. Parental involvement in
parent groups was a critical component of the treatment. The control group used
the usual and customary treatments offered at the clinic. Data were collected on
social-cognitive problem-solving skills and behavioral adjustment.

Group 1 showed greater improvement than Group 2 and the control group on
comprehension, and both groups improved more than the control group in terms of
generating solutions for problems with peer related issues. Group 2 showed
greater improvement compared with Group1 and the control group in terms of
competence at non-school activities, such as chores or sports. Group 2 also
showed greater improvements in externalizing (acting out) symptoms compared with
the control group.

Despite random
assignment, the second treatment group was advantaged socioeconomically relative
to the first treatment group, reflecting the small sample size, which represents
a caveat regarding the findings.



Gesten, E. L.,
Rains, M. H., Rapkin, B. D., Weissberg, R. P., Flores de Apocada, R., Cowen, E.
L., & Bowen, R. (1982). Training children in social problem-solving
competencies: A first and second look. American Journal of Community
Psychology, 10,

Mannarino, A. P.,
Christy, M., Durlak, J. A., & Magnussen, M. G. (1982). Evaluation of social
competence training in the schools. Journal of Schools Psychology, 20(1).

Weissberg, R. P.,
Gesten, E. L., Rapkin, B. D., Cowen, E. L., Davidson, E., Flores de Apocada, R.,
& McKim, B. J. (1981). Evaluation of a social-problem-solving training program
for suburban and inner-city third-grade children. Journal of Consulting and
Clinical Psychology, 49
(2), 251-261.

Yu, P., G. E. Harris, et al. (1986). A Social Problem-Solving Intervention for
Children at High Risk for Later Psychopathology.Journal of Clinical Child
Psychology 15,
1, 30-40.

Children (3-11), Male Only, Males and Females (Co-Ed), Suburban, Skills
Training, Conduct/Disruptive Disorders, Other Behavioral Problems, Social
Skills/Life Skills, Adolescents (12-17).

information last updated 7/14/11.