Violence Prevention Program May Halt Aggression in Its Tracks
April 28, 2000 -- In a speech on the anniversary of the shootings at
Columbine High School, President Clinton resolved to make the U.S. a safer
place for children. Tragically, four days later, a teen-ager allegedly shot
seven children at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.
Even one year after Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold allegedly walked into
Columbine High School and opened fire on their classmates, killing 13 students
before killing themselves, the U.S. still recoils from the specter of violence
among its youth.
Multiple-victim youth murder is on the rise and frequently occurs on school
grounds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in
Atlanta. However, a new program, featured in the April issue of the Journal
of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, seems to effectively reduce school
violence and aggression in school children.
The new program, called Linking the Interests of Families and Teachers
(LIFT), focuses on the two main aspects of a child's world, home and school,
says study co-author Mark Eddy, PhD, a clinical psychologist and research
scientist with the Oregon Social Learning Center.
The LIFT program is unique in that it applies its training principles
broadly to an entire population, and not just the identified troublemakers. For
example, LIFT trainers brought parents into the school for a series of parent
education classes in which they learned discipline strategies, such as how to
reduce their own anger by dealing with their children's behavioral problems
immediately and by using short-term consequences like "grounding"
Parents also could call a hotline that had a daily message detailing what
their children learned in school that day and what their homework assignments
were, so parents were kept apprised of daily activities.
LIFT behavioral trainers also taught teachers how to better manage
inappropriate behaviors in the classroom. And using role-playing with puppets,
games, and a self-imposed "timeout" called the "turtle trick"
-- in which an angry child learns how to withdraw from the activity and cool
off -- LIFT instructors taught children how to manage their anger and solve
problems. Even volunteer playground monitors were taught how to better
supervise children at play.
Eddy and colleagues conducted a study of the LIFT program at 12 public
elementary schools in a metropolitan area. Nearly 700 students in the first and
fifth grades, plus parents, teachers, and school staff, participated in the
study. Half of the students were enrolled in the LIFT program, and the other
half served as a control group.
After the 10-week LIFT program, professional observers who did not know
which children had been in the LIFT program were asked to evaluate the children
by watching their behavior during normal recess period.
Based on the observers' reports, the researchers found that the LIFT program
was effective in lowering rates of aggressive behavior in children. "The
most aggressive children showed the biggest decline in hitting, kicking, and
shoving," says Eddy. "In fact, they couldn't even be distinguished from
the other kids."