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Violence Prevention Program May Halt Aggression in Its Tracks

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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."

Eddy tells WebMD that follow-up studies are underway to explore LIFT's impact on future crime and delinquency. "But even if there aren't any long-term effects, we've already demonstrated an effective strategy to provide children with a safer environment during the school day."

Parents say the LIFT program also improved home life. "All my kids are behaving better, but only my first grader got the LIFT training," says Maria Quinones, a 33-year-old single mother of three. "My son learned to listen better, and I learned how to use rewards."

The LIFT program has teachers give colored armbands as rewards for good playground behavior, and the class with the most armbands gets a pizza party. Quinones says she offers all her children ice cream on the days her first grader comes home with a reward, which may account for the better behavior among the ones not in the program, she says.

A similar program began in Boston last October. The Program for Social Literacy (PSL) uses techniques similar to the LIFT program to teach 10 "life skills" -- such as self-control, responsibility, conflict resolution, and community service -- to all children from kindergarten to sixth grade, according to program director Deborah Prothrow-Stith, MD, a professor of public health at Harvard University.

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