The following is a summary of an article by Dr.
Cynthia Hudley
that originally appeared in Neurobiology of
Aggression: Understanding and Preventing Violence
, edited by
M. Mattson (2003).

Cognitive-Behavioral Intervention for Childhood Aggression

The Problem Children who display high levels of
aggression are a significant problem in schools, families, and
Hudley and her colleagues developed a 12-lesson
program that teaches aggressive children to recognize that many
negative actions of others are accidental and therefore not
deserving of an aggressive response. communities. One of the
most troubling factors about aggressive childhood behavior is that
it often predicts antisocial and criminal behavior in adolescence
and adulthood. Therefore, there is a need to reduce aggressive
behavior in childhood. The Study Cynthia Hudley of
the Gevirtz
Graduate School of Education
with several colleagues has
developed, implemented, and studied the BrainPower
, an intervention curriculum aimed at preventing
aggression for elementary school students. Research shows that
highly aggressive children often incorrectly assume that actions of
their peers are deliberately hostile, leading the aggressive
children to judge aggressive responses as appropriate social
behavior. Therefore, Hudley and her colleagues developed a
12-lesson program that teaches aggressive children to recognize
that many negative actions of others are accidental and therefore
not deserving of an aggressive response. The participants typically
receive 60-minute BrainPower lessons twice a week for six weeks, in
groups of six students, with two leaders. The groups consist of
four excessively aggressive and two average non-aggressive
students. The group leaders use coaching and modeling in their
instruction. The Results The BrainPower program
has been successful in three separate evaluation studies. The first
test of the program included 108 aggressive and non-aggressive male
students. They were randomly assigned to three groups: the
BrainPower intervention group, a placebo curriculum group, and a
no-treatment control group. Attributions of hostile intent to
others, reported anger, and endorsement of hostile behaviors
declined significantly only for the boys who participated in the
intervention group. Aggressive boys in the intervention group were
also rated by their teachers as significantly less aggressive
following the intervention, but changes in teachers’ ratings were
not significant for the placebo or control groups. The program was
then evaluated with a large group of boys in a longitudinal design
incorporating follow-up assessments 12 months beyond the end of the
program. A total of 384 boys in grades 4-6 from four schools were
randomly assigned to the same three groups. Again, judgments of
hostile intent, self-reported anger, and endorsements of aggressive
behavior declined significantly for the BrainPower intervention
group and remained lower than the placebo or control groups at a
12-month follow-up. The program was finally evaluated using a
longitudinal design as part of a comprehensive youth development
program, the 4-H Afterschool Program, in public housing projects.
The intervention group that received the program consisted of 46
4-H boys and girls. The control group was 41 students of the same
age living in the same public housing projects and attending the
same schools but not in the enriched 4-H program. Findings showed
inappropriate perceptions of hostile intent declined steadily for
both boys and girls in the program. Girls’ scores in the control
group were similar to the 4-H group, but comparison boys’ scores
increased. Teacher ratings of behavior for both boys and girls in
4-H improved over time. Parents’ ratings of their children’s
behavior also improved for 4-H students but not for the comparison
group students. What This Study Means The serious
problem of overly aggressive tendencies in children can be reduced
with cognitive-behavioral interventions. The BrainPower program has
a strong track record of being able to reduce aggressive tendencies
in children. For further information see the BrainPower Program
website at

Dr. Cynthia Hudley is a professor in the Gevirtz Graduate
School of Eduation.


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