The effects of school-based social information processing interventions on aggressive behavior, part I: universal programs

Additional Info

  • Authors: Sandra Jo Wilson, Mark Lipsey
  • Published date: 2006-05-07
  • Coordinating group(s): Education
  • Type of document: Title, Protocol, Review, User abstract, Other
  • Volume: 2
  • Issue nr: 05
  • Title: The effects of school-based social information processing interventions on aggressive behavior, part I: universal programs
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Fighting, bullying, verbal conflict, and disruptive behavior occur in many schools and it is these more common forms of aggressive and disruptive behavior that are typically targeted by school-based violence prevention programs. Over 75% of schools in a national sample in the U.S. reported using some sort of prevention program to deal with such behavior problems and many used more than one (Gottfredson, Gottfredson, Czeh, Cantor, Crosse, & Hantman, 2000).

There are many prevention strategies from which school administrators might choose (see, for example, Gottfredson, et al., 2000). This review focuses on programs used in school settings that address one or more aspects of students’ social information processing difficulties. According to the social information processing model, social behavior is the result of six interrelated steps: (1) encoding situational and internal cues, (2) interpreting the cues, (3) selecting or clarifying a goal, (4) generating or accessing possible responses to meet goals, (5) choosing a response, (6) and enacting the behavior (Dodge; 1986; Crick & Dodge, 1994). Negative social behavior such as aggression is thought to be the result of cognitive deficits at one or more of these stages.

Aggressive children differ from non-aggressive children in their ability to process social information and, for some children, difficulties in processing such information results in inappropriate behavioral responses (Dodge, Pettit, McClaskey, & Brown, 1986; Kendall, 1995). To illustrate, deficits at the encoding or interpretation stage of processing may involve misinterpreting as hostile the intent of others in neutral or ambiguous social situations. Hostile misattributions have been linked to aggressive responses (Crick & Dodge, 1994). And, aggressive children are more likely to make hostile attributions than their non-aggressive peers (Slaby & Guerra, 1988). Deficits at the goal selection or clarification stage can result in the selection of antisocial rather than prosocial goals (Asher & Renshaw, 1981; Crick & Dodge, 1989). Children who have difficulty accessing or evaluating responses to social situations (Steps 4 and 5) tend to have fewer responses from which to choose in social situations and may fail to evaluate the consequences of particular behaviors (e.g., Mize & Cox, 1990; Spivack & Shure, 1974).


This systematic review examines the effects of universal school-based social information processing interventions on the aggressive and disruptive behavior of school-age children. Program effects are examined overall and in relation to methodological and substantive differences across studies.

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