Extending Evidence-Based Social Skills Training to Young Children

Period of Performance: 05/01/2009 - 04/30/2011


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

3-C Institute for Social Development
DURHAM, NC 27713
Principal Investigator


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): National survey data suggest the prevalence of problem behaviors in young children is between 10-25 percent (Webster-Stratton and Hammond, 1997). As children enter preschool and begin to navigate social situations outside the home, problem behaviors interfere with social development, placing children at risk for problematic peer relations and delayed social skills. Without intervention, social and behavioral problems tend to persist and even escalate over time and, in turn, have a tremendous impact on the development of child psychopathology. Decades of research indicate social and behavioral deficits negatively affect adjustment and place children at increased risk for a myriad of later negative outcomes including depression, substance abuse, and delinquency (see Parker, Rubin, Price and DeRosier, 1995, for review). In contrast, positive social relationships serve as a protective factor promoting more positive developmental outcomes. Prevention and treatment research supports the use of social skills training (SST) for improving children's peer relations, social behavior, and emotional adjustment (see Greenberg, Domitrovich, and Bumbarger, 2001, for review). In addition, intervening with problematic social behaviors before they become chronic and intractable has been repeatedly heralded as a key to preventing the development of more serious maladjustment (Greenberg, et al.;Parker et al.). Early intervention is critical in the prevention of severe social skill deficits and entrenched negative peer interaction patterns (Coie, 1990). The goal of this Phase II project is therefore to continue the research and development of a version of an existing evidence-based small group SST program in order to make it applicable for younger children. This project will adapt 3-C ISD's SST program for 6-12 year old children, SSGRIN (Social Skills Group Intervention), to create a new intervention for young children (ages 4-6 years) titled "SSGRIN-EC" (SSGRIN for Early Childhood). SSGRIN-EC will build on SSGRIN's foundation, as well as Phase I findings, to offer a unique early intervention resource that represents a significant advancement over what is currently available for SST with young children. SSGRIN-EC will provide mental health professionals with an innovative intervention program to enhance the emotional competencies and social relations of young children. SSGRIN-EC will offer multi-media resources, including video and interactive web resources, and a skill based curriculum specifically aimed at enhancing social skills competencies. It also provides a unique means of bridging intervention settings with home efforts to promote social and emotional functioning. The Phase I results provide substantial support for continued development, as well as essential constructive feedback to inform the direction of that development. The proposed Phase II project will utilize the Phase I findings to revise, modify, and extend the SSGRIN-EC components in order to maximize quality and effectiveness. Once finalized, a scientific evaluation of the efficacy of the intervention for mastery of social skills concepts and positive changes in social, emotional, and behavioral functioning will be conducted. PROJECT NARRATIVE: Problematic peer relations, particularly when chronic, can have a tremendous impact on children's mental health as well as their academic, behavioral, and emotional functioning. Without intervention, social and behavioral problems tend to persist and escalate over time which, in turn, has a tremendous impact on the development of psychopathology. Development of psychiatric disorders due to socio-emotional deficits is a public health concern with annual US economic, indirect cost of mental illnesses estimated at $79 billion. Cost-effectiveness analyses of social skills training programs with even modest effect sizes estimated a monetary savings of more than $95,000 per participant and more than $8 return on every dollar invested. The President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health (2003) specifically calls for the identification and early treatment of children who experience mental health needs in order to prevent the potential onset of co-occurring disorders and break a cycle that otherwise can lead to school failure and other problems