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Researchers track program's success in curbing aggressive behavior

Tampa, FL (Feb. 16, 2005) -- When Laura Bush visited an inner city Baltimore classroom earlier this month, she observed first-grade students playing a game that promotes good behavior as they worked on a reading assignment. The first lady's words of praise for the "Good Behavior Game" shined the national spotlight on a classroom management technique little known outside academic circles.

Turns out the game works -- keeping the students from violent behavior long into adolescence.

For more than a decade, researchers at the University of South Florida College of Public Health have tested this program's effectiveness in discouraging disruptive behaviors and increasing academic achievement. USF's C. Hendricks Brown, PhD, codirected the randomized study of the first-grade preventive intervention, collaborating with the American Institutes for Research (Sheppard Kellam), the City of Baltimore Public School System, and the Oregon Social Learning Center.

Dr. Brown and his colleagues found that the Good Behavior Game dramatically reduced aggressive behavior and helped children stay on task in the classroom, particularly boys who had begun first grade as highly aggressive.

In the "Good Behavior Game" students motivate their teammates to follow class rules and are rewarded with incentives like a little extra time at recess or verbal praise from the teacher. Rather than separating children who are disruptive from the rest of the class, Dr. Brown said, the teacher draws on the powerful influence of a students' peers to collectively reinforce positive behavior.

"The intervention also was effective over the long term for the boys at highest risk -- their rate of aggression was much lower in middle school, and even as far as young adulthood 14 years later," said Dr. Brown, a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics whose research focuses on preventing mental health problems in youth. "Their rates of criminal activity, delinquency and
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Contact: Anne DeLotto Baier
abaier@hsc.usf.edu
813-974-3300
University of South Florida Health
16-Feb-2005


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