Positive school climate equals positive children's behavior, peacebuilders program teaches social competence

August 06, 2000

WASHINGTON -- Creating a pro-social school environment increases the frequency of children's positive behavior, develops their social skills, and may limit future aggressive behaviors. According to research being presented at the 108th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association (APA) this week, two years of a school-wide climate changing program called PeaceBuilders gave children greater social competence and more positive behavior patterns.

Psychologists Daniel J. Flannery, Ph.D., and Alexander T. Vazsonyi, Ph.D., along with several colleagues, evaluated the PeaceBuilders program in seven Pima County, Arizona elementary schools. Students were surveyed about their aggressive behavior (e.g., "I hit someone"), and their peace-building behavior (e.g., "I helped build peace at school"). Teachers also rated their students' social competence and aggressive behavior using two tools, the Walker-McConnell Scale of Social Competence and School Adjustment, and Achenbach's Teacher Report Form. The PeaceBuilders program was instituted immediately in half the sample and a year later in the other schools.

The PeaceBuilders intervention teaches simple rules: praise people, avoid put-downs, seek wise people as advisers and friends, notice and correct hurts inflicted, and right wrongs. These principles were taught school-wide to both teachers and students in an attempt to change the setting that triggers aggressive or hostile behavior and to provide role models for good social behavior. The authors say the intervention was "purposely woven into the school's everyday routine to make it a 'way of life,' not just a time or subject-limited curriculum."

After beginning PeaceBuilders, teachers noted significant improvement in student social competence, rating students higher on factors like empathy, cooperation, and sensitivity. Students also reported increased peace-building behaviors like helping others and giving compliments for good behavior. The majority of improvement in social competence and peace-building occurred between and six and 12 months into the program.

There was a small decline in aggressive behavior after the first six months, but by the end of the program aggression levels had returned to the baseline. However, in the six months that aggressive behavior was declining in the test schools, the control school's aggressive behavior actually increased. So, PeaceBuilders may have an effect on future aggressive behavior. In order to reduce aggressive behavior significantly, say the authors, future programs should include more targeted behavioral efforts to complement the universal approach.

PeaceBuilders is different from previous violence prevention programs, say the researchers, because it attempted to change the school climate instead of individual risk factors, it lasted longer than many other programs and the program focused on universal prevention beginning in kindergarten. The authors believe that a school-wide climate intervention such as PeaceBuilders "can improve child social competence, increase the frequency of positive behavior and may buffer expected increases in aggressive behavior."
-end-
Presentation: "Longitudinal Effectiveness of the PeaceBuilders' Universal School-Based Violence Prevention Program," Daniel J. Flannery, Ph.D., Kent State University, Alexander T. Vazsonyi, Ph.D., Auburn University, Dennis Embry, Ph.D., PAXIS Institute, Kenneth E. Powell, M.D., Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Henry Atha, M.P.H., Pima County, AZ Community Services Department Program, Wendy Vesterdal, M.A., and Shenyang Guo, Ph.D., Case Western Reserve University. Session 4108: Monday, August 7, 10:00-11:50 AM, Capitol Hilton Hotel, Federal Room B.

Daniel J. Flannery, Ph.D., can be reached at his Kent State University office at 330-672-2775 or by e-mail at dflanne1@kent.edu.

(Full text of the article is available from the APA Public Affairs Office)

The American Psychological Association (APA), in Washington, DC, is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world's largest association of psychologists. APA's membership includes more than 159,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants, and students. Through its divisions in 53 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 59 state, territorial, and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession, and as a means of promoting human welfare.

Contact: Public Affairs Office
202-336-5700 (until 8/2)
202-962-4285 (between 8/3 -- 8/8)
public.affairs@apa.org


American Psychological Association

Related Aggressive Behavior Articles from Brightsurf:

Promising treatment for aggressive childhood cancer
A drug has shown great promise in the treatment of neuroblastoma, an aggressive form of childhood cancer.

Less aggressive treatment better for heart patients who go into shock
Less is sometimes more when treating heart patients who go into shock after a heart attack.

Pinker flamingos more aggressive
Bright pink flamingos are more aggressive than paler rivals when fighting over food, new research shows.

Research reveals why some prostate cancers are more aggressive
Researchers at the University of East Anglia have discovered why some prostate cancers are more aggressive, spread to different parts of the body, and ultimately cause death.

Fighting fruit flies: Aggressive behavior influenced by previous interactions
Aggression doesn't just depend on who you are or who you're interacting with but also depends on your previous interactions, a new University of Guelph fruit fly study has found.

Managing the risk of aggressive dog behavior
Aggressive behavior in pet dogs is a serious problem for dog owners across the world, with bite injuries representing a serious risk to both people and other dogs.

Fluorine: Toxic and aggressive, but widely used
In toothpaste, Teflon, LEDs and medications, it shows its sunny side - but elemental fluorine is extremely aggressive and highly toxic.

The most aggressive spider societies are not always the ones that flourish
Evolutionary biologists at McMaster University who study the social lives and behaviour of colony spiders -- some of which are docile, others aggressive -- have found that the success of their cooperative societies depend on their neighbours.

An atlas of an aggressive leukemia
A team of researchers led by Bradley Bernstein at the Ludwig Center at Harvard has used single-cell technologies and machine learning to create a detailed 'atlas of cell states' for acute myeloid leukemia (AML) that could help improve treatment of the aggressive cancer.

Aggressive behavior brings emotional pain to the sadist
Sadists derive pleasure or enjoyment from another person's pain, yet new research shows that sadistic behavior ultimately deprives the sadists of happiness.

Read More: Aggressive Behavior News and Aggressive Behavior Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.