Testing the Efficacy of a Developmentally Informed Coping Power Program in Middle Schools
Co-Principal Investigators: John Lochman (University of Alabama) and Nicholas Ialongo (Johns Hopkins University)
Purpose: A substantial body of research has documented that disruptive behavior problems often co-occur with poor academic functioning and low school connectedness. Other behavioral challenges, such as bullying and aggressive behavior, also cause school disruptions and are associated with both short- and long-term academic difficulties as well as mental health concerns. These issues are particularly significant during the middle school years, when rates of school violence and disruption increase and student engagement and parental involvement in school based programming decline. One school-based program to address aggressive behavior problems among children is called Coping Power. This multi-component program includes clinician-facilitated group sessions for youth, separate group sessions for parents, and support to teachers. Though found to be effective with students in the upper elementary grades, and thus included on several federal and state lists of evidence-based programs (e.g., What Works Clearinghouse, Blueprints Promising Program, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Exemplary Program, Promising Practices Network Screened Program, SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices Legacy Program, Helping America’s Youth Registry Level 1), Coping Power had not been tested with older youth in middle school. The purpose of this study is to test the impact of a developmentally adapted Coping Power Program, the Early Adolescent Coping Power (EACP) Program, on academic performance and aggressive behavior problems in middle school.
Project Activities: The EACP will be tested using a 40 school group-randomized trial (GRT), such that 20 schools will be randomized to either treatment or control. Within treatment and control schools, all students in three consecutive cohorts will be screened by teachers to form groups of approximately 6-7 students in seventh grade. Participants will receive one year of intervention during the seventh grade (student groups, parent groups, and support for teachers) with three assessments during the intervention year (baseline, mid-intervention, and post-intervention) and one assessment at the end of eighth grade to determine sustained impact.
Products: The products of this project will be evidence of the efficacy of the Early Adolescent Coping Power (EACP) program for seventh grade students’ behavior and academic achievement. Other products include information about potential moderators (student gender, race/ethnicity, and special education status) and mediators (parent discipline practices and student social-cognitive factors) of impact. Peer reviewed publications will also be produced.
Setting: The project will take place in 40 ethnically diverse, urban-fringe Maryland and Alabama middle schools.
Sample: Approximately 720 students and their families and teachers will participate, as well as the school counselor, social worker or school psychologist in the schools assigned to treatment.
Intervention: The EACP uses a social-cognitive developmental model and builds from the original Coping Power program by incorporating developmentally-appropriate activities to target social-cognitive processes within the child and family supports as well as classroom-based supports for teachers. The EACP Youth Component consists of 25 group sessions (each ~40 minutes) of 6-7 early adolescents that take place at school outside of academic hours. Sessions are co-led by a master’s level clinician and the school’s counselor, social worker, or school psychologist. Each child also receives 5-7 individual 30-minute sessions during school hours with the clinician. Youth sessions focus on activities such as the use of relaxation and distraction techniques to cope with anger arousal, practicing social perspective-taking, generating and considering the consequences of alternative solutions to social problems, and strategies for entering new peer groups and coping with peer pressure. The EACP Parent Component consists of 12 group sessions of 10-12 parents (or parent dyads) with the two co-leaders. Motivational interviewing and a website are used to keep parents informed and engaged. Parent sessions focus on issues such as rewards for appropriate youth behaviors, age-appropriate rules and expectations for adolescents, and how to establish ongoing family communication structures. In addition, parents learn to support the social-cognitive and problem solving skills that youth learn in the EACP Youth Component. The EACP Teacher Component consists of professional development and follow-up boosters in the form of tip sheets. These meetings include didactic presentations and time for teacher problem solving on issues such as methods for promoting positive parent involvement in school, enhancing students’ study and organizational skills and homework, and conflict management strategies involving peer negotiation and teacher use of proactive classroom management.
Research Design and Methods: This is a 40 school group-randomized trial (GRT). Twenty schools will be randomized to either treatment or control. Within treatment and control schools, all students in three consecutive cohorts will be screened by teachers at the end of their sixth grade year to form groups of approximately 6-7 students in seventh grade. Students and their families will receive one year of intervention with three assessments (baseline, mid-intervention, and post-intervention) and assessment at the end of 8th grade to determine impact at one year follow-up.
Control Condition: Students in the control schools will receive the standard services offered in the schools they attend.
Key Measures: Student skills and behaviors will be measured using the Woodcock Johnson Tests of Achievement III, the Behavior Assessment System for Children (BASC-2: Parent, Youth, and Teacher Rating Scales: Adolescent), the Olweus Bully/Victim Questionnaire, the School Development Program School Climate Survey, the School Connectedness Scale, the Outcome Expectation Questionnaire, and the Problem Solving Measure for Conflict (PSM-C). Parents will report on child and family demographics and their child’s experience with bullying. Parents will also complete the Alabama Parenting Questionnaire, the Exosystem Social Support Questionnaire, the Beck Depression Inventory, and the Services Assessment for Children and Adolescents. Teachers will also report on bullying, receipt of services, and parent involvement. School records (e.g., discipline problems, grade retention/promotion, report card grades, state achievement test scores, attendance and truancy) will also be utilized. The researchers will also measure implementation fidelity, participant engagement, and dosage (student and parent session attendance, teacher attendance at meetings and consultation sessions).
Data Analytic Strategy: Mixed-model, repeated measures Analysis of Covariance (ANCOVA) will be used to compare treatment and control students on academic and behavioral outcomes at post-test and follow-up with regression adjustment for pre-test scores on the outcome measure. Potential moderators will be explored by including interaction terms in the ANCOVAs. Mediation will be tested using random coefficient growth modeling and its reformulation as a latent growth model. A series of analyses involving propensity scores and causal modeling procedures will explore variation in program impact based on parental participation in EACP. In addition, the team will calculate the economic costs of implementing the program for schools (e.g., expenditures for intervention protocols and materials, trainer and consultant fees, salaries for clinicians).