Preventing Disruptive Behavior in Elementary Schoolchildren: The Good Behavior Game | Print |  E-mail
Behaviour and Mental Health Problems
In short…

A class-room based program showed that it is possible to prevent the development of behavior disorders requiring treatment in young children at risk for this condition. The Good Behavior Game taught children how to get along with others, and to adopt socially acceptable behavior in a setting that did not further stigmatize children with poor behavior because it was directed at all children in a classroom.

The Issue: Children who, as they begin school, tend to be impulsive, lack self control, and try to force people to do what they want often get worse as they get older.  They often behave this way because they don’t know how to negotiate with other people, or don’t choose to.

Some studies have shown that these children are often “marked” at the beginning of their school career by their disruptive behavior.  Teachers may single them out for negative attention, and rarely compliment them on their good behavior.  Their peers can become fearful of them and give in to their aggression, thus reinforcing their negative behaviour.  Finding themselves disliked by both teachers and the more socially well adjusted children, they seek out children with the same negative attitudes and behaviours. Making interventions with only these children can further stigmatize them and make them feel even more rejected and angry by pulling them out of the classroom. 

The Research: The Good Behavior Game is a Universal, school-based intervention whose aim is to prevent the development of serious behavior problems in school.  Rather than targeting only the “problem” children, all children in the participating classes take part. Teams of children that included both those with problem behaviours and those without decided what was acceptable behavior and what wasn’t. Each of these behaviours was posted in a prominent place in the classroom. Children were encouraged to work together to reinforce each other’s good behavior and were rewarded by the teacher if they maintained a record of good behavior. Attention to negative behaviour was limited.

The Results: This was a randomized, controlled trial of The Good Behavior Game, a school-based  intervention given to all children in a class, not just the troubled children. Classrooms were randomized, not individual children. Teachers identified and rated behaviours in Grade 1 students. The children were then categorized into three groups according to their levels of disuptive behavior. The Good Behavior Game was then introduced at the beginning of Grade 2. After the intervention, those ranked as having intermediate levels of disruptive behavior at the beginning showed the most improvement in all types of disruptive behavior. The children with the highest number of  problem behaviours did not get worse as time went on.  The program demonstrated that it had a preventive effective because children with high levels of problem behavior usually get worse as they age. The children in this study either stayed at one level of problem behaviour or they got better.

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The preceding is a summary of: van Lier PAC, Muthen BO, van der Sar RM, Crijen AAM. Preventing Disruptive Behavior in Elementary Schoolchildren: Impact of a Universal Classroom-Based Intervention. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. 2004; 72(3): 467-478.

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 February 2009 22:00
 

The Research