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The ERIC/OSEP Special Project

OSEP, Ideas that Work

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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 skills.

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 me."

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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Last updated: February 11, 2002

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