Turning around maladaptive behavior 
Students with significant behavior problems typically have lower grades, higher dropout rates, and lower rates of employment when they leave school. To head off these problems, many schools use social problem-solving programs within the classroom, yet no large research review has been done on social problem-solving programs since 1993. To update these findings, Kristin Merrill and colleagues at the University of Florida performed a literature review of social problem-solving (SPS) program studies in grades K-12 spanning 1993-2015.

From a group of 380 studies that the authors found, 18 met inclusion criteria, which included that studies must have been from peer-reviewed journals, been quantitative, and addressed a specific program implemented during school hours.
Results found positive outcomes related to SPS skills acquisition and to peer acceptance. The greatest evidence was found for older students, at risk students, and programs specifically targeting aggressive behaviors. In the studies that followed students after they were no longer in SPS school programs, some maintained improved behaviors for up to a year. The key features of an effective SPS program were that students be taught step-by-step techniques to think through tough situations, having them rehearse and reflect on their desired behaviors; that emotional regulation skills be taught early; and that in order to maintain these gains, students actively think about how they use these new skills in real-life situations through using deliberate strategies like journaling or taking additional lessons addressing the real-life situations in which they found themselves.

Johns Hopkins University 

Research in Brief

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