Prevention Science, Vol. 7, No. 1, March 2006 (
Validity of Teacher Ratings in Selecting Inﬂuential Aggressive
Adolescents for a Targeted Preventive Intervention
David B. Henry,
Thomas R. Simon,
Michael E. Schoeny,
and The Multi-site Violence Prevention Project
Published online: 24 December 2005
This study describes a method for using teacher nominations and ratings to identify socially
inﬂuential, aggressive middle school students for participation in a targeted violence preven-
tion intervention. The teacher nomination method is compared with peer nominations of
aggression and inﬂuence to obtain validity evidence. Participants were urban, predominantly
African American and Latino sixth-grade students who were involved in a pilot study for a
large multi-site violence prevention project. Convergent validity was suggested by the high
correlation of teacher ratings of peer inﬂuence and peer nominations of social inﬂuence. The
teacher ratings of inﬂuence demonstrated acceptable sensitivity and speciﬁcity when predict-
ing peer nominations of inﬂuence among the most aggressive children. Results are discussed
in terms of the application of teacher nominations and ratings in large trials and full imple-
mentation of targeted prevention programs.
KEY WORDS: selective interventions; teacher ratings; halo effects; ecological risk.
An important issue in violence prevention
research is the identiﬁcation of high-risk children
to participate in targeted programs (August et al.,
1995; Lochman & Conduct Problems Prevention
Research Group [CPPRG], 1995). Targeted or
indicated programs focus on high-risk children who
already demonstrate some symptoms or signs of
problems (Coie et al., 1993; Institute of Medicine,
1994). Extending the concept of risk from the indi-
vidual level to the school level of analysis, the extent
to which aggressive children are able to inﬂuence
others becomes, along with individual aggression, a
marker for risk (Henry et al., in press). In this paper,
our interest was in determining how well teachers
could select students whom other students saw as
inﬂuential from among the most aggressive youth.
University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.
Duke University, Durham, North Carolina.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia.
The Multi-Site Violence Prevention Project, Atlanta, Georgia.
Correspondence should be directed to David B. Henry, PhD, In-
stitute for Juvenile Research, Department of Psychiatry, Univer-
sity of Illinois at Chicago, Room 155 WROB (M/C 747), 1747 W.
Roosevelt Road, Chicago, Illinois 60608; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are a number of challenges in the design
of effective procedures to select high-risk children.
One is to have selection procedures that are based on
developmentally appropriate factors that constitute
risk. Another is to have selection procedures that are
relevant to the particular context in which screening
procedures take place. Screening procedures usually
take place in the school setting, most typically in
elementary schools. Although, there have been stud-
ies of selection procedures with elementary school
children (e.g., Huesmann et al., 1994; Lochman &
CPPRG, 1995), there has been only limited study
of selection procedures targeting middle-school-age
adolescents. The purpose of this paper is to describe
and validate a method to identify middle school stu-
dents at high risk for aggression who are inﬂuential
among their peers.
An important ﬁrst step in choosing youth for a
targeted intervention is to identify developmentally
appropriate risk factors, and to then develop selec-
tion procedures based on these risk factors (Coie
et al., 1993; Lochman & CPPRG, 1995). Typically,
selection procedures have used ratings of aggressive
problems to select high-risk children (e.g., August
2006 Society for Prevention Research