The Good Behavior Game: A “whole classroom” approach to preventing behaviour problems | Print |  E-mail
Behaviour and Mental Health Problems
In Short…

A classroom-based program that does not single out children with behaviour problems but reinforces good behaviour among all children in the class has proven to be effective in preventing behaviour disorders such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder.  The Good Behavior Game taught children how to get along with others, and to adopt socially acceptable behaviour in a setting that did not further stigmatize children with poor behaviour because it was directed at all children in the 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 they 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 may rarely compliment them on their good behaviour. 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 often 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 behaviour problems in school, including ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder.

It works by involving all children in the class, not just the “problem” children. Teams of children that include both those with problem behaviours and those who do not have behaviour problems work together to decide what is acceptable behaviour and what isn’t.  Each of these behaviours is posted in a prominent place in the classroom. Children are encouraged to work together to reinforce each other’s good behaviour and are rewarded by the teacher if they maintain a record of good behaviour.  The focus is on reinforcing good behaviour rather than punishing bad behaviour.

The Results: This was a randomized, controlled trial in which the classrooms were randomized, not individual children.  Teachers identified and rated behaviours in their Grade 1 students, who were then split into three groups according to their levels of disruptive behaviour. The Good Behavior Game was introduced to the children in the following year, Grade 2.

At the end of the intervention, those who had been placed in the intermediate category for disruptive behaviour showed the most improvement in all types of disruptive behaviour. What’s more, children who had the most severe behaviour problems at the start of the intervention did not get worse. This showed the program had a preventive effective because children with high levels of problem behaviours 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.

Last Updated on Friday, 13 February 2009 14:07