Prevention Science [PREV] pp433-prev-369820 March 4, 2002 17:46 Style ﬁle version Nov. 04, 2000
Prevention Science, Vol. 3, No. 1, March 2002 (
Implementation and Evaluation of a Cognitive–Behavioral
Intervention to Prevent Problem Behavior
in a Disorganized School
Gary D. Gottfredson,
Elizabeth M. Jones,
and Thomas W. Gore
We assessed the effectiveness of two realizations of cognitive–behavioral instruction in an
inner-city middle school with high rates of absenteeism, low staff morale, and chronic low
academic achievement. Implementation measures showed that 68% of intended instruction
was delivered in the ﬁrst realization. Self-report measures showed improved school conduct,
less victimization in school, and more positive peer associations for the treatment group than
for the comparison group at the end of the school year. Treatment students were less likely to
leave the school than were comparison students, but were more often absent and tardy. Im-
plementation was poorer in the second realization, and there were no treatment–comparison
differences on self-reports or teacher ratings, but treatment students less often left the school.
Difﬁculties in conducting instruction in difﬁcult settings may limit the effectiveness of other-
wise efﬁcacious interventions. Speciﬁc intervention programs may offer minimal beneﬁts if
more basic school improvements are not achieved.
KEY WORDS: behavior problems; peer relations; social skills; at risk populations; adolescents.
The school is a key locus for intervention to
prevent youth aggression, drug use, and other prob-
lem behavior. This is so not simply because ado-
lescents spend so much time there. The school is
the primary institution aside from the family that
has access over extended periods of time to most of
the population of young people (Gottfredson, 1981,
1987). Until school dropout becomes a major prob-
lem (mostly after Grade 8), this access is almost
universal. The lion’s share of money spent on govern-
ment programs directed at youths is spent in schools—
probably upwards of 80% in all states (Holmes et al.,
1992). One kind of intervention to prevent prob-
lem behavior is particularly suited to implementation
in schools: Cognitive–behavioral intervention can be
Gottfredson Associates, Inc., Ellicott City, Maryland.
Associates for Renewal in Education, Inc., Washington, DC.
Present address: Far Southeast Family Strengthening Collabora-
tive, Inc., Washington, DC.
Correspondence should be directed to Gary D. Gottfredson,
Gottfredson Associates, Inc., 3239 B Corporate Court, Ellicott
City, Maryland 21042; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
applied through instructional programs, and instruc-
tion is what schools do.
Cognitive–behavioral social competence pro-
grams generally involve (a) developing young peo-
ple’s skills in identifying the antecedents of problems
in the cues provided by others, their environment, and
their own state of arousal; (b) increasing the probabil-
ity that youths will hesitate before taking impulsive ac-
tion; (c) improving individuals’ capacity to assess the
desirability of alternative outcomes; and (d) establish-
ing behavioral repertoires for coping with potentially
harmful events. Some of these interventions involve
training parents to teach cognitive–behavioral self-
management to their children (e.g., Camp & Bash,
1985; Spivak & Shure, 1974); others are administered
in classrooms (e.g., Botvin, 1989; Rixon & Erwin,
1999; Weissberg et al., 1990; see Elias et al., 1994; see
also Baron & Brown, 1991).
Efﬁcacy research has demonstrated that such
programs can have at least modest, short-term effects
on reducing problem behavior (Botvin et al., 1995;
Caplan et al., 1992; Elias & Clabby, 1989; Ellickson
et al., 1993; Ellickson & Bell, 1990; Greenberg, 1996;
2002 Society for Prevention Research