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Research Reviews: Violence Prevention

by George Bear, NCSP and Maureen Manning, NASP Research Committee

Presented by the NASP Research Committee, this column is intended to provide readers with a very brief synopsis of selected articles appearing in recent issues of journals in school psychology and related areas. Articles in School Psychology Review are not included since NASP members receive the journal.

Brendgen, M., Vitaro, F., & Bukowski, W. M. (1998). Affiliation with delinquent friends: Contributions of parents, self-esteem, delinquent behavior, and rejection by peers. Journal of Early Adolescence, 18, 244-265.

Provides insights on how relationships with parents influence later associations with delinquent friends. In a sample of 267 adolescents, researchers found that among adolescents who are rejected by their peers (but not among those who are not rejected), self-esteem mediates the relation between perceived closeness with parents and affiliation with delinquent friends. Findings suggest that a perceived lack of closeness with parents deprives early adolescents of an important source of affective support, resulting in decreased self-esteem and later affiliation with delinquent friends.

Deslandes, Rollande, & Royer, Egide. (1997). Family-related variables and school disciplinary events at the secondary level. Behavioral Disorders, 23, 18-28.

Explored the relationship between the school discipline problems of adolescents and several family-related characteristics (parenting style, parental supervision, family size, family structure and parents' levels of education). Consistent with previous studies, results show that parental supervision of student behavior is related to fewer disciplinary incidents. The effects of family size, family structure and parents' level of education were insignificant. Results suggest that family-school collaboration could facilitate the prevention or reduction of behavior problems. The authors offer several recommendations: First, parents and teachers should establish communication as early in the school year as possible, before any disciplinary incidents occur. Second, parents should be informed by school personnel of the benefits of carefully monitoring adolescent behavior. Finally, parents should be encouraged to discuss school with their children on a regular basis, rather than after problems arise. The focus of this daily communication should be to reinforce students for appropriate behavior rather than reprimand them for inappropriate behavior. Such positive partnerships between families and schools increase the likelihood that behavior problems can be prevented or reduced.

Egan, S. K., & Perry, D. G. (1998). Does low self-regard invite victimization? Developmental Psychology, 34, 299-309.

Studied 189 students in grades 3-7 in the fall and spring. Findings supported two tested hypotheses: (1) low self-regard (when assessed in terms of children's self-perceived social competence within their peer group) contributes to victimization and (2) healthy self-regard protects children who are at risk for victimization (e.g., due to physical weakness, manifest anxiety, poor social skills) from actual victimization. Self-perception measures were used to assess. Researchers suggested that high self-regard empowers children to defend themselves against bullies and thus serves as an important coping resource.

Furlong, M. J., & Smith, D. C. (1998). Raging Rick to Tranquil Tom: An empirically based multidimensional anger typology for adolescent males. Psychology in the Schools, 35, 229- 245.

This is one of multiple articles in this journal's special issue on school violence. The researchers present a brief and concise review of efforts to conceptualize types of anger and aggression. The review covers various intraindividual and environmental factors shown to influence anger and aggression. The focus of the study is on reporting results of a cluster analysis the researchers conducted on the Multidimensional School Anger Inventory (MSAI; a new measure developed by the authors which is described in another article in this issue of the same journal). Based on a sample of 200 students in grades 6-12, six subtypes of anger preference styles were found: (1) Extreme Anger, (2) Cynical, (3) Impulsive, (4) Prosocial, (5) Low Arousal- Low Coping, and (6) Low Arousal-High Coping. Implications for diagnosis, prevention and treatment are discussed.

Hudley, C., Britsch, B., Wakefield, W. D., Smith, T., Demorat, M., & Cho, S. (1998). An attribution retraining program to reduce aggression in elementary school students. Psychology in the Schools, 35, 271-282.

An attribution retraining program known as BrainPower was implemented in four elementary schools in an attempt to reduce aggressive behavior in children by changing the attributions they make for the behavior of others. Children were taught, through a series of 12 lessons, to recognize the accidental nature of various interactions with peers. In addition, they discussed how to respond appropriately, without aggression, to such interactions. At the end of the program, the participants were less likely to make judgments of hostile intent than were students in a control group. Furthermore, these students were rated by their teachers as demonstrating more self-control than the students in the control group. The effects of the program varied in intensity for each student, ranging from moderate to strong for many, but having no effects on the behavior of others. This discrepancy indicates that some students will benefit from such a program more than others, and future research is necessary to target those individuals who will benefit the most. Although the program produced significant short-term effects in terms of attributions and behavior, these effects diminished over the course of the following year. The researchers note that in order to achieve long-term effects, it may be beneficial to include attributional training as a single component in a much more comprehensive program.

Larson, J. (1998). Managing student aggression in high schools: Implications for practice. Psychology in the Schools, 35, 283-295.

Larson argues that the current national focus on school violence presents school psychologists with great opportunities with respect to the delivery of direct services, consultation and program evaluation. The article presents an excellent overview of primary and secondary prevention programs at the high school level.

Mathur, S. R., Kavale, K. A., Quinn, M. M., Forness, S. R., & Rutherford, R. B. (1998). Social skills interventions with students with emotional and behavioral problems: A quantitative synthesis of single-subject research. Behavioral Disorders, 23, 193-201.

Presents a meta-analytic review of 64 single-subject studies of the effectiveness of social skills training. The researchers conclude that social skills interventions "have limited empirical support for their overall effectiveness." They offer several explanations for the findings: (1) selection of subjects in the studies (it was unclear if all students had social skill deficits prior to intervention), (2) limitations of the intervention strategies used (social reinforcement was the primary strategy, (3) limited duration of the interventions (however, no relation was found between program duration and effectiveness), and (4) the commonly-cited problem of generalization and maintenance of treatment effects. Researchers note that their findings are consistent with those of previous studies.

Morrison, G., Robertson, L., & Harding, M. (1998). Resilience factors that support the classroom functioning of acting out and aggressive students. Psychology in the Schools, 35, 217-227.

Students rated by teachers as being aggressive were divided into two groups based upon their level of academic performance within the classroom (high or low). These students were compared in terms of resilience factors such as self-concept (academic and social), social support, school bonding and parental supervision. In terms of self-concept, an interaction with gender was found. The lower-achieving boys exhibited higher self-concepts than their higher-achieving peers, whereas the relationship was the reverse for girls. Perhaps the boys in this study were not aware of how poorly they were doing in class, or perhaps they responded defensively as a protective mechanism. Further research is necessary to determine the possible explanations for this unexpected finding. The results also indicate that higher-achieving aggressive students, regardless of gender, tend to perceive higher degrees of social support and parental supervision than their lower-achieving peers.

George Bear, Ph.D., NCSP, heads the NASP Research Workgroup and directs the school psychology program at the University of Delaware; Maureen Manning is a member of the NASP Research Workgroup and doctoral student at the University of Delaware.