Program

Feb 17, 2006

OVERVIEW

The social skills training program was designed to use
social skills training and interpersonal problem solving methods to improve the
social skills of 5th and 6th grade girls who were
selected by their teachers as having few friends. Treatment sessions took
place over the course of 3.5 weeks. Sessions consisted of a praise phase,
interpersonal problem solving skills, and an activity phase. By the end of the
program, significant improvements were found among the girls who participated
in the social skills training program compared with the 21 girls in the control
group. Observational data indicate that participants spent less time alone,
more time interacting in conversation, and more time interacting with others
compared with girls with few friends who had not participated in the program.
No impacts were found on teacher ratings using the Social Skills Rating System.

DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM

Target population: Fifth and sixth grade
girls nominated by their teachers as having few friends.

The
social skills training program used interpersonal problem-solving skills and
praise strategies in a group treatment setting to improve the social skills of
girls with few friends. The aim of the social skills training program was
to improve general social skills, increase peer acceptance, and decrease
feelings of loneliness among girls with few friends. Treatment and training
were carried out by one therapist and two therapist assistants with five
student participants per session. Each treatment session had 3 phases: a
praise phase, an interpersonal problem solving phase, and an activity
phase.

During
the praise phase, students were trained to behave in ways designed to improve
the social skills of the other students in the group. The therapist and
assistants explained how praise can be used to encourage the behavior of
others. First, the therapist assistants modeled appropriate use of praise.
Then the therapist recognized students who had praised others between group
meetings. Two requirements in the praising exercise were that a girl be
praised for her improved behavior and that the praised girl thank whoever
praised her. Each student received and gave praise during each
session.

During
the interpersonal problem solving phase, specific social problems were
introduced by the therapist and solved using a 5-step problem solving strategy,
which included: 1) problem identification, 2) goal identification, 3)
generation of alternatives, 4) selection of best alternative, and 5) a plan to
implement the selected solution. The final activity phase included a fun
activity, such as making friendship bracelets or playing board games.

EVALUATION(S) OF PROGRAM

Evaluated
population:
Forty 5th and 6th graders were
recruited, matched on age, and randomly assigned to a control group (n=21) or a
treatment group (n=19).

Approach: Teachers at select elementary schools located in the southeastern United States
were asked to recruit girls who they felt had few friends.
Treatment was implemented after school, twice a week.

The
Social Skills Rating System (SSRS), a 57-item teacher report scale, was used to
asses social skills and their importance in a classroom (cornbach’s alpha= .90;
r = 8.5). Teachers of participants completed the SSRS at pretest and
posttest.

Pre-test
and post-test observations were made during a 30-minute interval while
participants played in the school gym. Undergraduate psychology students and
two graduate students were trained in observation procedures. Observers
were blind to the purpose of the study. Observers identified target
behaviors of participants and rated participants by completing observation
sheets. During observations, raters scored the occurrence of target
behaviors. Target behaviors included: the child engaged in conversation
for at least 5 seconds, the child approached another child from a distance of
at least 5 feet, another child approached the child from a distance of at least
5 feet and remains within 3 feet for at least 5 seconds, or the child sat alone
for at least 5 seconds with no other child within 5 feet.

Results: At posttest, the treatment group spent significantly more time in
conversation and initiating interaction with other children than the control
group ( t(1,18) = -6.47, p<.05). The amount of time children
spent alone, however, was not significantly different for treatment and control
groups. There was no significant difference between treatment and control groups
for how frequently children were approached by other children and remained
within 3 feet for at least 5 seconds. Pre-test and Post-test SSRS scores
showed no significant changes in social skills between groups observed in the
classroom.

Authors
note that this study was limited by only performing 6 treatment sessions over a
short period of time (3.5 weeks). Additionally, no follow-up assessments
were conducted to determine intermediate and long term effects.

SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION

References

Berner,
M.L., Fee, V.E., Turner, A.D. (2001). A Multi-Component Social Skills Training
Program for Pre-Adolescent Girls with Few Friends. Child & Family
Behavior Therapy, 23
(2), 1-19.

Gresham,
F.M., & Elliot, S.E. (1988). Social Skills Rating System. Circle
Pines: American Guidance Services.

KEYWORDS:
Middle Childhood (6-11), Adolescence (12-17), Children, Elementary School,
Skills Training, Counseling/Therapy, Social/Emotional Health, Behavioral
Problems, White or Caucasian, Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino,
Social Skills.

Program
information last updated 02/17/06.

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