The Effects of School-Based Social Information Processing Interventions on Aggressive Behavior: Part II: Selected or Indicated Pull-out Programs

NICHCY’s Structured Abstract 77 describes the following:

Title | The Effects of School-Based Social Information Processing Interventions on Aggressive Behavior: Part II: Selected or Indicated Pull-out Programs

Author | A Campbell Collaboration Systematic Review. Reviewed by Sandra Jo Wilson and Mark W. Lipsey

Source | Campbell Collaboration. Education Review Group.
Available online at:

Year Published | 2006

This systematic review examines the effects of universal school-based social information processing interventions on the aggressive and disruptive behavior of school-age children. Program effects are examined overall and in relation to methodological and substantive differences across studies.

Over 75% of schools in the U.S. reportedly use one or more behavior problem prevention programs to deal with bullying, disruptive behavior, and conflict.  One aspect that these prevention programs sometimes address is the social information processing difficulties of students with behavior problems.  The social information processing model describes six interrelated steps that result in social behavior:

  1. Encoding cues from the situation
  2. Interpreting those cues
  3. Selecting or clarifying a social goal
  4. Generating or assessing various responses to accomplish this goal
  5. Choosing a response
  6. Enacting the behavior

According to the social information processing model, behavior problems are the result of a break down or deficit in one of these stages.

In order for a program to qualify for the purposes of this synthesis, it had to meet several specific criteria.  This meta-analysis only considered social information processing programs which possessed three specific characteristics:

  • The program trained students in at least one of the social information processing steps described above.
  • Instead of focusing on behavioral skills the program focused on thinking skills and processes that could be applied to a variety of social situations.
  • The program applied cognitive skills to social situations through the use of structured tasks and activities.

Social information processing programs can be delivered to an entire class (these are called universal programs), or to a targeted group of students who have been identified as having behavior problems or being at risk for behavior problems (these programs are called selected or indicated programs).  The Campbell Collaboration’s review of social information processing interventions is split into two parts.  This section (Part II) focuses on indicated pull-out programs.  The other report (Part I) is reviewed in NICHCY Structured Abstract 71 and focuses on universal programs.

Research Questions
What are the effects of universal school-based social information processing interventions on the aggressive and disruptive behavior of school-age children?

Research Design
Systematic Review; Meta-Analysis*

  • Number of Studies Included | 47
  • Number of Subjects | Not reported
  • Years Spanned | 1974-2004

Research Subjects

  • Gender: One study focused only on girls, while 14 studies focused exclusively or nearly exclusively (over a 95%) on boys.  In 12 studies boys accounted for half or more of the participants (50-60%).  In the remaining 16 studies, the participants were mostly boys (60-95%).
  • Countries of Study: Of the 47 studies, 41 were conducted in the USA, 2 in Canada, and 1 each in Australia, Finland, Israel, and India.
  • Age: Almost half the studies focused on 9-11 year old students (21 studies, 45%).  The second most studied age range was 12-16 year olds (16 studies, 34%) and, finally, 6-8 year olds were the focus of 10 studies (21%).
  • Race/Ethnicity: 28% White; 32% Black; 4% Hispanic; 2% Asian; 4% Mixed; 30% Cannot tell/Unreported

Age/Grade of Subjects
Grades: K-12. Ages: 6-16.

Specified Disability

  • Disorders: behavior disorders, adjustment disorder, conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, attachment disorder, juvenile delinquency, attention deficit disorder.
  • Populations: school dropouts, truant youth, at risk populations, predelinquent youth, high risk students.

Social information processing programs had to meet three criteria in order to be included in this synthesis:

  1. The focus of the program needed to clearly be social information processing and training had to be provided on at least one of the social information processing program steps:  (1) encoding situational and internal cues, (2) interpretation of cues, (3) selecting or clarifying a goal, (4) generating or accessing possible responses, (5) choosing a response, (6) and behavioral enactment.
  2. The emphasis of the program needed to be on cognitive skills rather than behavioral skills.
  3. The application of cognitive skills to real social situations needed to be taught  through structured tasks and activities.

In addition, studies in Part II of this report focused only on programs that targeted students who had or were at-risk for behavior problems.

Duration of Intervention

  • 43% of the programs lasted 8 weeks or less.
  • 34% of programs lasted 9-16 weeks
  • 17% of the programs lasted 17-34 weeks.
  • 6% of programs lasted 1 school year or more.


  • Overall, the selected or indicated social information processing programs examined in this metanalysis were found to be effective for reducing aggressive and disruptive behavior.
  • SIP programs for children who attended special education schools or who were pulled out of special education classes to participate demonstrated significantly lower effectiveness compared with programs for at-risk students pulled-out of regular education classrooms.
  • Higher risk students who were not in special education showed the greatest reducations in aggressive behavior.
  • Programs emphasizing anger control, perspective taking, and social problem solving were equally effective.

Combined Effects Size
The overall weighted mean effect size* for selected/indicated social information processing programs was 0.26. This effect size is considered to be in the low end of the significant range.

Many schools already employ social information processing interventions as part of violence prevention.  The results of this study show that these programs have a statistically significant effect, and suggest that programs for students who are in general education settings and are at high for aggression and/or behavior problems may have even more significantly positive results.

In their conclusion, Wilson and Lipsey translate the results of this study into real world terms explaining:

We can translate [the effect size] into terms that are more concrete by converting it into typical levels of aggressive behavior in schools. According to the 1999 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 14.2% of students reported being in a physical fight on school grounds in the year prior to the survey. For 1995 and 1997, 15.5% and 14.8% of students reported being in physical fights (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2002). If we use these figures to estimate that about 15% of untreated school children will get into a fight during a school year, the overall effect size of .26 for selceted and indicated social information processing programs translates into about a eight percentage point reduction in fighting. That is, if 15% of selected or indicated students who received no social information processing training were getting into fights before intervention, only about 7% of children in social information processing programs were getting into fights. The most effective programs produced larger effects than this and, thus, would reduce rates of aggressive behavior even more. In addition, since many of the children in selected or indicated programs were already exhibiting some problem behavior, it is likely that their baseline level of fighting was higher than the general estimate of 15%.  Thus, the reduction in aggressive behavior could possibly be greater. (pp. 23-24)


* Terms Defined

Meta-analysis | A widely-used research method in which (1) a systematic and reproducible search strategy is used to find as many studies as possible that address a given topic; (2) clear criterion are presented for inclusion/exclusion of individual studies into a larger analysis; and (3) results of included studies are statistically combined to determine an overall effect (effect size) of one variable on another.

Effect size (ES or d) | A statistical calculation, often represented as ES or d, that measures the impact of an intervention. An effect size below d = 0.20 suggests that a treatment did not have a significant effect. An effect size of d = 0.20 is considered small or low; an effect size of d = 0.50 is considered moderate; an effect size of d = 0.80 or above is large.

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