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Examining predictor variables on treatment outcome in the early skills development program



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Saskatchewan Health has provided funding to Saskatoon and North Battleford District Health Boards to establish a school and home-based program for very aggressive kindergarten and grade one children. The purpose of the Early Skills Development Program is to assist young children who present with aggressive behaviours develop more socially acceptable interaction styles so they are less at risk for social rejection and/or neglect (Child and Youth Services, 2002). Pre- and post-intervention data was collected on each child that participated in the 10-week Early Skills Development Program using the Child Behavior Checklist- Teacher Report Form, which includes eight clinical scales: Withdrawn, Somatic Complaints, Anxious/Depressed, Social Problems, Thought Problems, Attention Problems, Aggressive Behavior, and Delinquent Behavior. In addition, demographic data was collected on each child, including age, grade, gender, diagnosis of a behaviour/mood disorder, medication status, number of siblings, family status, and whether the family is on social assistance. Evaluations of the efficacy of the Early Skills Development Program have been conducted at year one (Mykota, 1999), year two (Headley, 2000), and year three (Leibel, 2002) since the program’s commencement. Each study found statistically significant deceases in aggression overall. However, closer examination of individual children who participated revealed that several participants either had more significant decreases in aggressive behaviour or were not successful at all. The finding of some children showing greater improvement over others, or no improvement at all, suggests the need for examination of the predictive variables that affect treatment outcomes in the Early Skills Development Program. The objective of the following research studies was to determine, in three parts, what variables will predict treatment outcome in the Early Skills Development Program. Based on previous research (e.g., Dumas & Wahler, 1983; Kazdin & Crowley, 1997; Lochman et al, 1985) and the extant data available, three studies were conducted. Study one examined child demographic variables as they relate to the prediction of treatment outcome in aggressive behaviour. Results from study one indicated that the demographic variables available in the extant data base were not predictive of treatment outcome in the Early Skills Development Program. Study two investigated psychological variables, based on ratings on the Child Behavior Checklist-Teacher Report Form, in the prediction of treatment outcome. Results from study two indicated that children who showed symptoms of being withdrawn, having social problems, and the presence of anxiety and depression showed increased benefit from the Early Skills Development Program. Study three examined contextual variables that related to the child’s family in predicting the behaviour change of participants immediately following treatment in the Early Skills Development Program. Results indicated that participants who did not have any siblings at the time of treatment showed a significantly higher decrease in aggression than those who did have siblings.






Master of Education (M.Ed.)


Educational Psychology and Special Education


Educational Psychology and Special Education


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