Intervention in Kids With Behavioral Problems Benefits Them as Adults

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Intervention, including social skills training and parental behavioral-management training, that begins at an early age for children that exhibit behavioral problems can help stem psychopathology when they become adults.

The Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group, a consortium of researchers from several major universities, screened more than 9,500 kindergarteners for conduct problems from 1991 through 1993. A total of 891 students with behavioral problems agreed to participate in the study, which involved randomization into either a 10-year intervention program or control.

The goal of the intervention was to develop social competencies in children that would carry them throughout life. This included peer coaching and tutoring. Eighty percent of participants continued through grade 10 and when the participants reached 25, their arrest records were reviewed.

While 69% of those in the control group displayed at least one externalizing, internalizing, or substance abuse psychiatric problem (based on self- or peer interview) at age 25, only 59% of those assigned to intervention did (odds ratio=0.59, CI=0.43–0.81; number needed to treat=8).

Participants in the intervention group also reported lower severity-weighted violent (standardized estimate=−0.37) and drug (standardized estimate=−0.43) crime conviction scores, lower risky sexual behavior scores (standardized estimate=−0.24), and higher well-being scores (standardized estimate=0.19).

Intervention in Kids With Behavioral Problems Benefits Them as Adults
Intervention in Kids With Behavioral Problems Benefits Them as Adults

This randomized controlled trial tested the efficacy of early intervention to prevent adult psychopathology and improve well-being in early-starting conduct-problem children.

Kindergarteners (N=9,594) in three cohorts (1991–1993) at 55 schools in four communities were screened for conduct problems, yielding 979 early starters. A total of 891 (91%) consented (51% African American, 47% European American; 69% boys). Children were randomly assigned by school cluster to a 10-year intervention or control. The intervention goal was to develop social competencies in children that would carry them throughout life, through social skills training, parent behavior-management training with home visiting, peer coaching, reading tutoring, and classroom social-emotional curricula.

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