Several studies over the past few years have evaluated the Child Development Project and similar programs that aim to build children’s social, emotional, and academic learning skills. The results are encouraging. Here is a sample of studies that show not only the success of certain programs, but the promise of a broad educational approach.
C.E. Izard, S. Fine, D. Schultz, A. Mostow, B. Ackerman, E. Youngstrom, “Emotion Knowledge as a Predictor of Social Behavior and Academic Competence in Children at Risk,” Psychological Science 12 (2001): 18-23.
This longitudinal study found a connection between emotional intelligence and social and academic performance. Its results indicate that a preschooler’s ability to recognize and interpret signs of emotion helps him develop more positive social interactions, ultimately improving his academic achievement over time. Conversely, deficits in this ability lead to behavioral and learning problems. The researchers analyzed the progress of 72 children, ages five to nine, from economically disadvantaged families over four years. They conclude that for children who had difficulties interpreting emotion, it was a struggle to build rapport with their teachers, ultimately affecting their later academic performance.
D. Solomon, V. Battistitch, M. Watson, E. Schaps, C. Lewis, “A Six-District Study of Educational Change: Direct and Mediated Effects of the Child Development Project,” Social Psychology of Education 4 (2000): 3-51.
This study documented the impact of the Child Development Project (CDP). Among the 12 elementary schools evaluated, students displayed more academic motivation and positive behavior at the schools that made significant efforts to implement the program. The researchers found that the key to positive results was having teachers who successfully created a caring community in their school. A followup study in middle schools suggests that positive effects of the CDP continue even after students have left participating schools.
G.V. Caprara, C. Barbaranelli, C. Patorelli, A. Bandura, P. Zimbardo, “Prosocial Foundations of Children’s Academic Achievement,” Psychological Science 11(2000): 302-306.
Two hundred ninety-four children were studied to determine if either prosocial behaviors—defined as being helpful, sharing, cooperating, and exhibiting kindness to others—or aggressive behaviors at age eight would predict academic achievement five years later. The researchers found that early prosocial behavior strongly predicts subsequent academic achievement, even for those students whose academic standing at age eight was not high. The implication is that helping children develop social skills at an early age may have a greater impact on their academic abilities than concentrating solely on their academics.
J.L. Aber, J.L. Brown, C.C. Henrich, “Teaching Conflict Resolution: An Effective School-Based Approach to Violence Prevention,” National Center for Children in Poverty, Columbia University (1999).
This report summarizes an intensive twoyear evaluation of the Resolving Conflict Creatively Program’s (RCCP) impact on 5,000 students in 15 participating New York City elementary schools. RCCP is a school-based conflict resolution program that begins in kindergarten and extends through twelfth grade. Students whose teachers taught a high number of RCCP lessons exhibited more emotional control and positive social behaviors than their peers and showed gains in standardized test scores. Additionally, the study found that as students participated in RCCP programs over successive years, they exhibited less aggression and violence than their peers, suggesting a cumulative effect of the program.
M.T. Greenberg, C.A. Kusche, E.T. Cook, J.P. Quamma, “Promoting Emotional Competence in School-Aged Children: The Effects of the PATHS Curriculum,” Development and Psychopathology 7 (1995): 117-136.
This study measured the effects of an intervention, the Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies curriculum (PATHS), a program to teach children how to understand and manage their emotions. It involved the assessment of 286 children from grades two and three, approximately 30 percent of whom were in self-contained special needs classrooms while the rest were in standard classrooms. After one school year, the study found significant improvement in children’s ability to understand their feelings, their confidence to manage their feelings, and their ability to recognize others’ feelings. Teachers also reported improvements in student behavior, including improved self-control and better skills in addressing interpersonal conflict.