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Am J Prev Med. 1996 Sep-Oct;12(5 Suppl):120-8.

Evaluating a cognitive/ecological program for the prevention of aggression among urban children.

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  • 1Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 48106-1248, USA.


The Metropolitan Area Child Study (MACS) is a multifaceted school- and family-based intervention and evaluation study designed to prevent and understand the development of aggressive behavior. The multifaceted interventions are grounded in combined social-cognitive and ecologic theories. Social-cognitive theories contend that cognitive scripts, attributions, and beliefs acquired early in life mediate the effects of ecological factors that influence the development of antisocial behavior. Prevention programs aimed at these cognitions must address multiple dimensions of the child's environment including family, peer, school, and community. The program has three levels of intervention delivered in two-year segments: (1) Level 1: a general enhancement classroom intervention that stresses culturally sensitive student and teacher interaction involving instructional and classroom management strategies and a social-cognitive curriculum that mitigates aggressive development; (2) Level 2: intensive small-group sessions designed to change children's cognitions and enhance peer relationship skills for at-risk children added to the general classroom enhancement program; and (3) Level 3: a one-year family relationship intervention that stresses parenting skill building and emotional responsiveness in family interactions added to the general enhancement and small-group training conditions. Sixteen Chicago-area schools are randomly assigned (four each) to a control group or one of the three intervention levels. Individual child assessment, peer assessments, classroom behavioral observations, and archival data are collected before the interventions begin, during the interventions, at the end of each intervention, and at a follow-up point. The pretests indicate that the children on average have higher levels of aggression than found nationally and elevated clinical levels of other psychopathologies. Across the four intervention levels there are no significant differences in ethnic composition, socio-economic status (SES), aggressive behavior, and normative beliefs about aggression.

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