Follow up of Fast Track

These are the lead researchers in the Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group with their current universities (over the years, some have changed affiliations):

The Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group, a team of composed of seven of the most eminent US scholars studying the development of childhood behavior disorders, published another in its series of papers tracking the outcomes of the children it has been following in a long-term study about preventing acting out disorders. In this longer-term follow-up analysis, the team found that the effects were still present for the children who showed the most risk of having behavior disorders in the first place.

This project and these folks are the big time. The work has been conducted very carefully and cannot be represented as an example of over-hyped findings.

Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group. (2011). The effects of the Fast Track preventive intervention on the development of conduct disorder across childhood. Child Development, 82, 331–345. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2010.01558.x

The impact of the Fast Track intervention on externalizing disorders across childhood was examined. Eight hundred-ninety-one early-starting children (69% male; 51% African American) were randomly assigned by matched sets of schools to intervention or control conditions. The 10-year intervention addressed parent behavior-management, child social cognitive skills, reading, home visiting, mentoring, and classroom curricula. Outcomes included psychiatric diagnoses after grades 3, 6, 9, and 12 for conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and any externalizing disorder. Significant interaction effects between intervention and initial risk level indicated that intervention prevented the lifetime prevalence of all diagnoses, but only among those at highest initial risk, suggesting that targeted intervention can prevent externalizing disorders to promote the raising of healthy children.

In the early years of the project, one of the components of the model was a school-based intervention in which teachers provided an adapted of a curriculum called PATHS that aims to help studnets learn about emotions, social relations, and self-control. Teachers also received general behavioral consultation from the project staff members. In another component, parents participated in groups designed to promote postive family relationships and teach effective behavior management skills. Yet another component provided supplmental reading tutoring for the children. Others included special peer- and social-relation activities and opportunities for the children in the experimental conditions.

Although the the initial results of this comprehensive intervention were not bowl-you-over stunning, they were clear and broad. There were benefits for a wide range of social, emotional, and academic outcomes in schools. In addition, parents of children in the experimental group reported better parent-child relations than those in the control group. Importantly, the outcomes were consistent across child gender and race.

The Fast Track project has many features that will be of interest to readers. Visit the Fast Track Project Overview to learn more about the children who participated; the communities in which they and their families lived; the many instruments used in measuring the children’s, their families’, and their schools’ activities and outcomes; the research design; and the interventions.

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