Background: Research about the effectiveness of school-based psychosocial prevention programs for reducing aggressive and disruptive behavior was synthesized using meta-analysis. This work updated previous work by the authors and further investigated which program and student characteristics were associated with the most positive outcomes.
Methods: Two hundred forty-nine experimental and quasi-experimental studies of school-based programs with outcomes representing aggressive and/or disruptive behavior were obtained. Effect sizes and study characteristics were coded from these studies and analyzed.
Results: Positive overall intervention effects were found on aggressive and disruptive behavior and other relevant outcomes. The most common and most effective approaches were universal programs and targeted programs for selected/indicated children. The mean effect sizes for these types of programs represent a decrease in aggressive/disruptive behavior that is likely to be of practical significance to schools. Multicomponent comprehensive programs did not show significant effects and those for special schools or classrooms were marginal. Different treatment modalities (e.g., behavioral, cognitive, social skills) produced largely similar effects. Effects were larger for better-implemented programs and those involving students at higher risk for aggressive behavior.
Conclusions: Schools seeking prevention programs may choose from a range of effective programs with some confidence that whatever they pick will be effective. Without the researcher involvement that characterizes the great majority of programs in this meta-analysis, schools might be well-advised to give priority to those that will be easiest to implement well in their settings.