Best Evidence in Brief: What works for reducing problem behaviors in early childhood?

A new Best Evidence in Brief, so new interesting research insights to share:

A new research brief from Child Trends synthesizes findings from random-assignment, intent-to-treat evaluations of 50 behavior programs. The evaluations assessed program impacts on externalizing behaviors (e.g., aggression, disruptive behavior, and oppositional defiance) and/or internalizing behaviors (e.g., withdrawal, anxiety, or depression) among children ages birth to five.

Overall, 36 of the 50 programs were found to have a positive impact. Specifically:

  • 32 of 49 programs (65 percent) improved externalizing behaviors
  • 13 of 24 programs (54 percent) improved internalizing behaviors
  • Of the 23 programs that assessed impacts on both behaviors, eight (35 percent) worked for both internalizing and externalizing behaviors

Findings showed that interventions characterized by a variety of approaches, settings, targets, and providers worked to reduce externalizing behaviors, suggesting that this cluster of behaviors can be improved using a number of different approaches.

In addition, the authors conclude that programs targeting parents and teachers are especially successful and should continue. They say that innovative approaches to program delivery, including technology-based or self-guided training, should be explored to scale up these successful programs and reach families who struggle to attend trainings or commit to home-visiting

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