A Review of Aggressive Behavior Intervention Outcome Research
A Review of Aggressive Behavior Intervention Outcome Research
John Zillmer, MSE, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
Faculty Mentor: Melissa Coolong-Chaffin, PhD, NCSP
Research on the general effectiveness of schoolbased behavioral interventions targeting overt,
physically aggressive behavior will be synthesized
using meta-analysis. An overall effect size (ES) will
be calculated to estimate the relative change in
aggressive behavior. This effect size will represent
either the change from pretest to post-test or the
mean difference between treatment and control
groups across all included studies. Additional ESs
comparing study characteristics (e.g., behavioral vs.
cognitive-behavioral, group vs. individual, targeted
vs. indicated) may also be calculated if enough
studies are retrieved. Previous meta-analyses of
outcome research in aggressive behavior have
indicated that interventions are generally effective
(Hahn et al., 2007; Park-Higgerson, PerumeanChaney, Bartolucci, Grimley, & Singh, 2008; Wilson,
Lipsey, & Derzon, 2003; Wilson & Lipsey, 2007).
Implications of this study may involve the
characteristics of effective behavioral interventions
as well as the possible differences between
interventions represented in research and those
more typical of school practice (Forman & Burke,
2008; Wilson & Lipsey, 2007).
Violent and aggressive behaviors among schoolchildren are significant public health issues. For the student
aggressors, these behaviors are associated with poorer academic and social outcomes (Barnes, Smith, & Miller,
2014), as well as increased risk for antisocial and criminal behaviors persisting into adulthood (Bradshaw, Schaeffer,
Petras, & Ialongo, 2010; Schaeffer et al., 2006). For the targets of these behaviors, there is also an association with
poorer academic outcomes, and the students are more likely to report not enjoying school (Kochenderfer & Ladd,
Lists of specific interventions and programs
which are evidence-based can help provide
some guidance to schools in selecting
interventions that may be most helpful in their
setting. However, research of this kind is limited
to individual programs, and each program
typically has only a few studies investigating its
Articles will be retrieved from electronic databases (i.e., PsycINFO, Education Resources Information Center [ERIC],
Medical Literature Analysis and Retrieval Online [MEDLINE], and the National Criminal Justice Reference Service.
Articles will also be retrieved through a hand search of School Psychology Review, Journal of Educational and
Psychological Consultation, Journal of Behavior Assessment and Intervention in Children, and Journal of Positive
Behavior Interventions. Additional articles may also be identified by searching the references of previous metaanalyses. Finally, articles may be identified by searching the references of studies which have already been
1. What research is available regarding the
outcomes of school-based interventions on
2. What is the overall effect of these interventions?
a. Universal vs. targeted?
b. Manualized vs. unstructured?
c. Individual vs. group delivery?
d. Target aggression vs. other behavior?
e. Fidelity checks vs. no fidelity checks?
3. To what extent are effectiveness or routine
programs represented in the literature?
As noted by Forman and Burke (2008)
and Wilson and Lipsey (2007), most
outcome studies report interventions
which were implemented either by
trained researchers or under their
direct supervision. However, these
types of studies are not representative
of what is routinely practiced in the
For teachers addressing violent and aggressive behaviors, using behavioral management techniques necessarily
detracts from instructional time (Wilson & Lipsey, 2003). For administrators and other school professionals,
providing educational services to students engaging in violent or aggressive behaviors often also represent a
significant demand upon the resources of a school.
Evidence-based practice, such as the services provided through behavioral intervention, requires that school
practitioners use the most current research to inform their decisions. Research and program evaluation is,
appropriately enough, recognized by NASP as one of the foundations of school psychologists service delivery
(NASP, 2010). This requires that a practitioner is not only knowledgeable in the implementation of interventions and
programs but also their impact. That is, research evaluation of interventions is concerned with both its processes
and outcomes. It is important that the methods used in addressing these behaviors are chosen from an established
research base, and that resources are allocated appropriately to support these students.
Meta-analysis is a technique used to systematically review the research literature. It has been several years since a
meta-analysis of school-based interventions has been conducted which focuses specifically on overt physical
aggression, and it is, therefore, appropriate for an update to be conducted.
Published since 2004 this will reduce the overlap with previous meta-analyses regarding aggressive behavior.
Published in English
Includes a dependent measure of overt physical aggression other measures of aggression (e.g., social, verbal,
relational, bullying) or related cognitive measures (e.g., attitudes toward aggressive behavior or individuals,
normative beliefs about aggression) may be included if overt physical aggression is also reported.
Intervention is school-based and delivered to elementary-aged students the sample may also include students at
secondary school, but outcomes for elementary students must be reported separately.
Pretest/posttest or experimental design (e.g., intervention vs. control, intervention comparison) to allow for
calculation of effect size.
The effect size used in the analyses will be the standardized mean change (i.e., Cohens d):
where is the group pretest mean (or control group mean), is the group posttest mean (or intervention group mean),
and is the pooled standard deviation for Group j in Study i (or the pooled standard deviation between experimental
Studies included in the meta-analysis will also be coded based on several study characteristics, including:
Subject characteristics gender, ethnicity, age of participants, and risk level
Program/intervention characteristics effectiveness vs. efficacy, duration, frequency, total hours of contact, format
(e.g., group, one-on-one), intensity (e.g., universal, selected, indicated), delivery personnel, and treatment fidelity
Method characteristics study design, attrition, and source of dependent measure (e.g., direct observation, rating
scale, peer nomination)
In comparison, meta-analysis offers to extend
the literature in a different way. First, the results
of this meta-analysis may indicate
characteristics of effective, school-based
programs on overt physical aggression. That is,
this study has the potential to yield evidence
about behavioral approaches in general as well
as individual programs. Second, it offers to
provide a more systematic and comprehensive
review of published studies. Third, since many
schools already have prevention or intervention
programs already in place, these results may
help inform schools how to improve these
programs or better match them to students for
which they are likely to be effective.
Funding for this project was provided by the
Office of Research and Sponsored Programs
Barnes, T. N., Smith, S. W., & Miller, M. (2014). School-based
cognitive-behavioral interventions in the treatment of aggression
in the United States: A meta- analysis. Aggression And Violent
Behavior, 19(4), 311-321. doi:10.1016/j.avb.2014.04.013.
Bradshaw, C. P., Schaeffer, C. M., Petras, H., & Ialongo, N.
(2010). Predicting negative life outcomes from early aggressivedisruptive behavior trajectories: Gender differences in
maladaptation across life domains. Journal of Youth &
Adolescence, 39(8), 953-966.
Forman, S. G., & Burke, C. R. (2008). Best practices in
selecting and implementing evidence-based school
interventions. In A. Thomas & J. Grimes (Eds.), Best practices in
school psychology v, 799-812. Bethesda, MD: National
Association of School Psychologists.
Hahn, R., Fuqua-Whitley, D., Wethington, H., Lowy, J., Crosby,
A., Fullilove, M., & ... Dahlberg, L. (2007). Effectiveness of
universal school-based programs to prevent violent and
aggressive behavior: A systematic review. American Journal Of
Preventive Medicine, 33(2,Suppl), S114-S129.
Kochenderfer, B. J., & Ladd, G. W. (1996). Peer victimization:
Cause or consequence of school maladjustment? Child
Development, 67, 13051317, http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.14678624.1996.tb01797.x.
National Association of School Psychologists. (2010). Model for
Comprehensive and Integrated School Psychological Services,
NASP Practice Model Overview. [Brochure]. Bethesda, MD:
National Association of School Psychologists.
Park-Higgerson, H., Perumean-Chaney, S. E., Bartolucci, A. A.,
Grimley, D. M., & Singh, K. P. (2008). The evaluation of schoolbased violence prevention programs: A meta-analysis. Journal
of School Health, 78, 465-479. doi: DOI: 10.1111/j.17461561.2008.00332.x
Wilson, S. J. & Lipsey, M. W. (2007). School-based
interventions for aggressive and disruptive behavior: Update of
a meta-analysis. American Journal of Preventative Medicine,
33(2S), S130-S143. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2007.04.011.
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