The study took place in two neighborhood family centers and 10 affiliated elementary schools in a large midwestern city.
Kindergarten and first-grade students from 10 elementary schools were included in the study. Children were recruited for participation in two cohorts; parents were informed that some students would be assigned via a lottery procedure to participate in the two-year intervention and others would be involved in assessments only. Children who received parental consent were then screened on the 25-item Aggression Scale of the Child Behavior Checklist–Teacher Rating Form (Achenbach, 1991). Students who received a t-score greater than or equal to 55 were eligible for the study, unless they had a pervasive developmental disorder or serious emotional-behavioral disorder that required special education placement. A total of 327 students were eligible for the study and were randomized into three groups: full intervention (n = 107), partial intervention (n = 111), and comparison group (n = 109). The two intervention groups were collapsed by the researchers. The final sample included 190 students: Early Risers group (n = 127) and comparison group (n = 63). The Early Risers group consisted mostly of African-American (86%) and male (59%) students. The comparison group also consisted mostly of African-American (80%) and male (55%) students.
Children were originally assigned to two intervention groups (full and partial strength). Both
groups received Child Skills components for two years, and the full-strength group also received the Family Support component. The Child Skills component included a summer program, an after-school program, and a Monitoring and Mentoring School Consultation Program. For two consecutive summers, the summer program activities took place over a six-week period and focused on social skills, creative arts, physical fitness, and recreation. The afterschool program took place one day a week over a two-year period (from October to May) and included small-group social skills instruction, homework assistance, and recreational activities. The first year of the after-school program focused on social, emotional, and problem-solving skills, whereas the second year focused on empathy and anger management. Fifty percent of children attended at least 48% of the summer program and 43% of the after-school sessions. Formal fidelity assessment was conducted on a scale of 1 (not at all) to 4 (most of the time); means scores for the after-school and summer program ranged from 3.5 to 4.
Beginning midway through Year 1 and continuing through Year 2, students received support at their regular school through the Monitoring and Mentoring School Consultation Program; this component involved monitoring student attendance, behavior, homework completion, and academic performance through consultation with each child’s teacher. When a domain was flagged as being problematic, a school advocate would meet with the teacher to develop a plan for one-to-one mentoring at the school. The amount of mentoring time received by individual students varied across schools and classrooms.
The Family Support component included home-based therapy delivered by family advocates who were required to make a minimum of three bimonthly contacts in the first year and six contacts in the second year. The program was adjusted to the needs of each family, and there was much variability in the amount of contact time families accumulated. Some families did not meet the minimum contact time requirements, whereas other families received many more contacts. The average amount of contact time per family was 9.6 hours. The Family Support program was utilized primarily by highly stressed families to help find housing, health care, employment, and child care.
Children in the comparison condition did not participate in any aspect of the Early Risers program.
This study included measures of academic achievement, externalizing problems, school
adjustment, social competence, and internalizing problems. For a more detailed description of
these outcome measures, see Appendix B.
Support for implementation
Two employees at each neighborhood center served as family/school advocates and coordinated
the summer program and after-school components. Staff received an intensive training
program prior to the start of each component and received weekly structured supervision by
center supervisors. Adherence to content and delivery specifications was monitored periodically
via unannounced observations made by fidelity technicians who observed sessions.
School advocates were available to consult with students’ classroom teachers upon request.
Two of the four original family advocates left the program after Year 1. One of these positions
experienced two additional personnel changes.