Listed as a promising program in the Surgeon General’s Report on Youth Violence (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2001a) Linking the Interests of Families and Teachers (LIFT) is a universal school-based program that targets two major factors that put children at risk for subsequent behavior problems and delinquency: aggressive and other problem behaviors with teachers and peers at school and ineffective parenting, including inconsistent and inappropriate discipline and lax supervision. LIFT has 3 main components: (1) child social skills training, (2) a playground behavior game, and (3) parent management training.
Child social skills training in the program consists of 20 sessions of 1 hour each conducted across a 10-week period. Sessions are held during the regular school day. Each week, the sessions include five parts: (1) classroom instruction and discussion on specific social and problem-solving skills, (2) skills practice, (3) free play in the context of a group cooperation game, (4) a formal problem-solving session, and (5) review and presentation of daily rewards. The curriculum is similar for all elementary school students, but the delivery format, group exercises, and content emphasis are modified to address normative developmental issues depending on the grade level of participants.
The playground behavior game takes place during recess. During the game, rewards can be earned by individual children for the demonstration of both effective problem-solving skills and other positive behaviors with peers as well as the inhibition of negative behaviors. These rewards are then pooled with a small group of students as well as his or her entire class. When a sufficient number of armbands are earned by a group or by the class, simple rewards are given (e.g., an extra recess, a pizza party). The key to this aspect of the game is to have adults roaming throughout the playground, immediately terminating negative confrontations and handing out colorful nylon armbands as a reward to individual students for positive behavior towards peers. Playground monitors, required in most schools, can be taught to fill this role.
The parenting classes are conducted in groups of 10 to 15 parents and consist of 6 sessions scheduled once per week for approximately 2.5 hours each. The sessions are held during the same period of time as the child social skills training. Session content focuses on positive encouragement, discipline, monitoring, problem solving, and parental involvement in the school. Counselors, teachers, or psychologists can conduct the groups, as the curriculum is designed to accommodate varying levels of instructor education and expertise. Teachers and parents give the program extremely positive evaluations.
The surgeon general’s report documents evidence of the program’s effectiveness: “In short-term evaluations, LIFT decreased children’s physical aggression on the playground (particularly children rated by their teachers as most aggressive at the start of the study), increased children’s social skills, and decreased aversive behavior in mothers rated most aversive at baseline, relative to controls. Three years after participation in the program, 1st-grade participants had fewer increases in attention-deficit disorder-related behaviors (inattentiveness, impulsivity, and hyperactivity) than controls. At follow-up, 5th-grade participants had fewer associations with delinquent peers, were less likely to initiate patterned alcohol use, and were significantly less likely than controls to have been arrested.”