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Childhood Aggression Prevention project: Child centred environments to limit early aggression intervention trial

Reductions in aggressive behaviour can improve the mental health outcomes of both children who act aggressively and those who have aggressive behaviours directed toward them. Potential benefits to those aggressed against are the reduction in physical injuries and mental health difficulties due to acute or chronic exposure to aggression or interpersonal violence. For aggressors themselves, potential benefits are the reduction in developmental health risks found to be present with aggressive children including: elevated risk for later substance abuse, injuries resultant from risky or violent behaviours, depression, suicide attempts, and spousal and child abuse. Although many of the health ramifications of aggression are not experienced until adolescence or adulthood, developmental pathways to such outcomes are in place by early childhood. Interventions to limit social and psychological problems associated with aggression and violence increasingly are targeting children at a younger age.

The Childhood Aggression Prevention (CAP) Project was built upon a two-part process. The first involved a formative study of best practices in aggression prevention amongst Western Australian teachers and school administrators. The second involved a review of the most effective interventions to date. The aim of the CAP Project was to develop, implement and evaluate a school-based intervention to reduce and limit the impact of childhood aggression. Specific objectives were: to measure the effectiveness of a one-year Pre-Primary intervention in limiting children’s aggression and disruptiveness and support prosocial development, improve classroom climate, and reduce peer rejection (which can aggravate problems with aggression); and to provide teachers with state-of-the-art strategies for teaching children’s social understanding and skills to enable regulation of anger, improving the quality of peer interactions, and improving their own relationships with difficult children.

Twenty-four government schools from Western Australia were stratified by socioeconomic status and randomised to the intervention group or the comparison group. Children were tracked from Kindergarten to Year 1, with the intensive intervention component implemented in the Pre-Primary year. The primary outcomes were perpetration of aggressive behaviour, experiences of aggressive behaviour, prosocial skills and empathy with others, based on parent and teacher assessments of children in their care.

Based on student outcomes, the intervention was not found to have a statistically significant impact on children’s aggressive behaviours. However, results did show teachers reported feeling closer to their students and that their teaching approaches used mostly intrinsic rewards for students rather than extrinsic rewards. Further, the process data for the two universal strategies used by teachers with all children in their classes were promising.

New funding is currently being sought to collect data in 2012 from the CAP cohort, now in Year 5, to better understand possible causes and therefore intervention opportunities to improve mental, social and academic outcomes for children, especially those who are aggressive

For further information about this project please contact Ms Tommy Cordin at t.cordin@ecu.edu.au

Project duration

2006 –2009

Funding body

Healthway (with additional support from the Department of Education, Western Australia)


Researchers

Associate Professor Margaret Hall
University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, Assistant Professor Kevin Runions
Associate Professor Stacey Waters
Ms Thérèse Shaw

Staff

Ms Tommy Cordin
Ms Kaashifah Bruce
Ms Erin Erceg
Ms Elizabeth Bowker
Ms Melanie Epstein

Child Health Promotion Research Centre
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