Date of Award

8-2008

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

Advisor

Douglas W. Nangle

Second Committee Member

Cynthia A. Erdley

Third Committee Member

Jeffrey E. Hecker

Abstract

The present study was designed to evaluate the effectiveness of a social skills curriculum aimed at increasing social skill usage in Head Start preschoolers, and sought to contribute to the paucity of literature on social skills interventions with this at-risk population. Using a two-tiered intervention and conforming to a single-group, nonconcurrent multiple baseline design, 38 preschoolers participated across three Head Start classrooms. This innovative methodology was based on an attempt to improve the cost-effectiveness of the intervention, with the bulk of the intervention efforts directed to subsets of participants in each classroom who were already demonstrating social skills deficits and impaired peer relations (intensive level), but also including all other children in the classroom (universal level). The curriculum specifically targeted four social skills (sharing, taking turns, leading, and comments) that have been found to contribute to prosocial interactions in earlier studies. Multi-method assessment consisted primarily of ongoing behavioral observations across baseline, intervention, and one- and three-month follow-ups, and included adjunct teacher ratings (Social Skills Rating System-Teacher Form; Aggressive Behavior subscale of the Achenbach Caregiver-Teacher Report Form) and peer sociometrics at baseline, posttreatment, and follow-up. It was hypothesized that targeted social skills would increase for all participants by post-treatment and follow-up, and that peer sociometric ratings and teacher ratings would also reveal prosocial changes. Data were analyzed using both visual inspection and hierarchical linear modeling techniques. Overall, results for these hypotheses were mixed. While visual analysis revealed a modest treatment effect for intensive participants, HLM analyses suggested that all participants were predicted to increase use of targeted social skills by 12% by the conclusion of the intervention. With respect to peer sociometrics, intensive participants' ratings increased between post-treatment and follow-up, at which point they were essentially equivalent with peer ratings of universal participants. Teacher ratings, in contrast, failed to change in predicted directions, thereby rendering the evaluation of clinically significant change irrelevant. A critique of the methodology and selection of outcome variable is offered, along with a review of the challenges inherent in the applied research setting. Directions for future research efforts are also included.

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