What Works for Reducing Problem Behaviors in Early Childhood: Lessons from Experimental Evaluations

Early ChildhoodOct 2, 2015

Problem behaviors in early childhood (birth to five) are associated with poor outcomes in adolescence and adulthood, including delinquency, engagement in criminal activity and violence, and depression (Bornstein, Hahn, & Haynes, 2010; Liu, 2004; O’Connell, Boat, & Warner, 2009). These problem behaviors can be externalizing or internalizing. Externalizing behaviors are directed outward and include aggression, disruptive behavior, and oppositional defiance; internalizing behaviors are directed inward and include withdrawal, anxiety, or depression.

This research brief synthesizes experimental evaluations of 50 programs. The evaluations assessed program impacts on externalizing behaviors and/or internalizing behaviors among children ages birth to five. Evaluations of 27 programs assessed externalizing behaviors exclusively; 22 program evaluations assessed both externalizing and internalizing behaviors; and one assessed internalizing behaviors exclusively. Most of the evaluations focused on preschool children, or those ages three to five.