Development funded by the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs
Parents' Use of Learned Strategies Produces Lasting Improvement in Children's Behavior
Training parents of aggressive preschool children can result in behavior improvements
that last into adulthood. Since 1969, the Regional Intervention Program (RIP) has been
providing services to families of preschool children who have serious concerns about
their child's behavior. A recent OSEP-funded study evaluated the outcomes of this
program and found long-lasting effects.
Though the program has adapted to changing needs, it maintains its core precept that
parents need to take an active role in treatment and follow up:
- In RIP, parents are the primary agents of change for their children
- They are the principal trainers and sources of support for other parents
- They are the daily operators of the service delivery system.
Parents first participate in the treatment program and then in what is called the "payback"
program, where they provide services to newer families still in active treatment. Parents
are taught to address solutions to problem behavior so that the child engages in positive,
developmentally appropriate activities and, through classroom situations with peers and
parental supervisors, the young children exhibiting problem behavior are taught social
The program was evaluated by Phillip Strain of the University of Colorado at Denver and
Matthew Timm of Tennessee Voices for Children. The researchers observed the behavior
of two cohorts of families in school and at home, studying the interactions between
parents and children. In particular, they looked at the kinds of requests made by the
parents and the rate of appropriate behavior by the children to see how closely the
patterns of interaction resembled the management skills the parents learned in RIP.
There was a strong correlation between the learned skills and the parent-child interaction.
When studying the children from the original cohort of families (from the 1970s), the
researchers found that these people, now adults, had all adjusted to responsible careers
and had not exhibited aggressive or antisocial behavior. The researchers attribute the
continued success of RIP to the interactive nature of the program, to "adult family
members' adopting a few simple behavioral strategies that they continue to use to this
day." A former client of RIP is quoted as saying, "They [the RIP strategies] became like
second nature, like something your Mama taught you. I guess they'll always be with
The research in the study was supported in part by the Office of Special Education
Programs at the US Department of Education, through Grant #H023C970029, Phillip S.
Strain, Project Director, and through Grant #H324C000049, Phillip S. Strain and
Matthew A. Timm, Project Directors. The full report from the research survey can be
found in Strain, P. S., & Timm, M. A. (August 2001). Remediation and prevention of
aggression: An evaluation of the Regional Intervention Program over a quarter of a
century. Behavioral Disorders 26(4), pp. 297-313.
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