Maximizing the potential of early childhood education to prevent externalizing behavior problems: A meta-analysis

Holly S. Schindler, Jenya Kholoptseva, Soojin S. Oh, Hirokazu Yoshikawa, Greg J. Duncan, Katherine A. Magnuson, Jack P. Shonkoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Early childhood education (ECE) programs offer a promising mechanism for preventing early externalizing behavior problems and later antisocial behavior; yet, questions remain about how to best maximize ECE's potential. Using a meta-analytic database of 31 studies, we examined the overall effect of ECE on externalizing behavior problems and the differential effects of 3 levels of practice, each with increasing specificity and intensity aimed at children's social and emotional development. In short, we found that each successive level of programs did a better job than the prior level at reducing externalizing behavior problems. Level 1 programs, or those without a clear focus on social and emotional development, had no significant effects on externalizing behavior problems relative to control groups (ES = .13 SD, p< .10). On the other hand, level 2 programs, or those with a clear but broad focus on social and emotional development, were significantly associated with modest decreases in externalizing behavior problems relative to control groups (ES= - .10 SD, p< .05). Hence, level 2 programs were significantly better at reducing externalizing behavior problems than level 1 programs (ES = - .23 SD, p< .01). Level 3 programs, or those that more intensively targeted children's social and emotional development, were associated with additional significant reductions in externalizing behavior problems relative to level 2 programs (ES = - 26 SD, p< .05). The most promising effects came from level 3 child social skills training programs, which reduced externalizing behavior problems half of a standard deviation more than level 2 programs (ES = - .50 SD, p< .05).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)243-263
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of School Psychology
Volume53
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015

Keywords

  • Child social skills training
  • Early childhood education
  • Externalizing behavior problems
  • Meta-analysis
  • Prevention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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