BOX 6-8

The Good Behavior Game: An Elementary School Universal Intervention Targeting Classroom Behavior

The Good Behavior Game (GBG) is a simple universal program to reinforce appropriate social and classroom behavior in elementary school. The theory of the program is that reducing early aggressive behavior will change the developmental trajectory leading to multiple problems in later life. Classrooms are divided into teams, and each team can win rewards if the entire team is “on task” (e.g., fewer than a specified number of rule violations during the game period) or otherwise acting in accordance with previously stated teacher expectations. Rewards include extra free time, stars on charts, and special team privileges.

The GBG has been tested in multiple trials, including some that measured long-term results. A review by Embry (2002) emphasizes the strength of the evidence and concludes that the GBG (1) dramatically reduced disruptive behavior and increased academic engaged time, and (2) had effects that have been replicated across elementary school grades, among preschoolers, and in other countries.

Kellam and colleagues (Kellam, Werthamer-Larsson, et al., 1991; Kellam, Rebok, et al., 1994) evaluated the long-term impact of the GBG in a randomized controlled trial with 19 Baltimore schools that compared the program with a test of mastery learning among first graders (Block, 1984) and usual practice. The GBG reduced aggressive and disruptive behavior during first grade (Dolan, Kellam, et al., 1993; Kellam, Rebok, et al., 1994; Rebok, Hawkins, et al., 1996; Kellam, Ling, et al., 1998). By middle school, recipients of the GBG had lower rates of smoking (Kellam and Anthony, 1998), and those who had initially been aggressive had experienced less growth in aggressive behavior (Muthén, Brown, et al., 2002).

Petras, Kellam, et al. (2008) used latent class analysis to assess the long-term (at ages 19-21) impact of the GBG on aggressive male behavior. The program significantly reduced the likelihood that persistently highly aggressive boys would receive a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder as a young adult. It also prevented suicidal ideation and suicide attempts (Wilcox, Kellam, et al., 2008). Other analyses of outcomes at ages 19-21 showed that the GBG significantly reduced the risk of alcohol or illicit drug abuse or dependence (Kellam, Brown, et al., 2008) and use of mental health and drug services (Poduska, Kellam, et al., 2008); there were no effects on anxiety and depression.

Aos, Lieb, and colleagues (2004) report that the benefits of the GBG exceed its costs.

one classroom intervention, the Good Behavior Game (see Box 6-8), on aggression and mental health and substance abuse–related outcomes, particularly among boys.

Preventive interventions can also have a positive effect on academic outcomes, although few studies have measured this outcome (Hoagwood, Olin, et al., 2007; Durlak, Weissberg, et al., 2007). A meta-analysis of programs that include academic achievement as an outcome concluded that

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