Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

16361 Person-Centered Effects of the Making Choices Program: Results From a Sequential Cohort Trial

Sunday, January 15, 2012: 9:45 AM
Independence E (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Aaron Thompson, MSW, Doctoral Candidate, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Mark W. Fraser, PhD, Tate Distinguished Professor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Rebecca J. Macy, PhD, Associate Professor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Steven H. Day, MCP, Research Assistant Professor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Purpose: This presentation will demonstrate PCM in estimating effects from a cohort trial of the Making Choices (MC) program, a school-based universal prevention intervention. Designed to strengthen emotional regulation and social problem-solving skills in children, MC is intended to reduce early aggressive behavior. Aggressive behavior in childhood is widely acknowledged to be a developmental predictor of academic failure, delinquency, partner abuse, and a variety of health risk behaviors in adolescence and young adulthood (Odgers et al., 2008; Temcheff et al., 2008).

Methods: A sequential cohort design was used to examine the responses of third-grade students who received the MC program in two elementary schools. In 2000-1, students entering the third grade comprised the first comparison cohort (n=177). They received a routine health curriculum. In 2001-2 (n=173) and 2002-3 (n=198), third-grade students received MC plus the routine curriculum. These two cohorts constituted the intervention condition. Last, MC was withdrawn and instruction returned to the routine health curriculum in 2003-4. After a 1-year lag, additional comparison data were collected from the 2004-5 third-grade cohort (n=140).

For each cohort, teachers conducted fall and spring child behavioral assessments. Prior research with similar scales found teacher assessments to reliably report child behavior within the school context (Huesmann et al., 1994). Measures included overt aggression (α=.79), relational aggression (α=.80), cognitive concentration (α=.97), social competence (α=.91), and peer relations (α=.81). No differences between cohorts on baseline covariates or outcome variables were observed.

Results: A person-centered model was estimated by cohort over time. LCA evaluation using fit statistics (e.g., BLRT, LMR, BIC, and entropy) revealed a four-class latent profile solution at each data wave for each cohort. In addition to fit statistics, substantive information was used in confirming the four-class model. Specifically, the percentage of students fitting a high-risk class (6-9%) was substantiated against prior studies (see, e.g., 9%; Fast Track, CPPRG, 2002; 8%, OJJDP, 2001; 5-10%, Seattle Social Development Project, Ayers et al., 1999; 5-10%, Sugai & Horner, 2008). Extending the LCA, a LTA model was fit.

Based on LTA, significantly more MC students appear to have remained in low-risk profiles compared to students in comparison cohorts. Additionally, more students exposed to MC fit progressive transitions and fewer fit digressive transitions. That is, more high-risk students progressed to lower-risk status in the MC versus comparison cohorts. Conversely, more students in the comparison cohorts digressed from lower to higher risk profiles. Mobility tables and figures will be presented to graphically portray these patterns.

Implications: The findings suggest that social-cognitive skills training reduces risk for high-risk children while buffering children in low-risk profiles. In practice, students fitting high-risk profiles comprise only 5-10% of school populations; but they are responsible for over 60% of all disciplinary referrals (Kaufman et al., 2010; Sugai et al., 2002). Prevention programs that alter the status of high-risk children have both individual and environmental effects. They directly affect developmental trajectories by strengthening skills, and they indirectly affect learning opportunities by reducing classroom disruptions. The PCM analysis suggests MC may hold dual promise for high-risk children.

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