This dissertation concerns the treatment of aggression in primary education. Main aim was to test whether a curriculum to promote the social competencies of children – the Dutch version of Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies (PATHS) – could reduce aggressive behaviour displayed by 130 boys aged 6-7. Secondary aim was to increase the understanding of factors determining effectiveness. A longitudinal study was conducted to investigate the effects of PATHS in mainstream elementary schools, special needs elementary schools, and elementary schools for special education (schools for severely maladjusted children). Data were also collected from control groups which used other intervention techniques. The treatments in experimental and in control group were both routinely administered curricula; all schools used their intervention strategy for at least two years. The influence of the research on the actual educational circumstances was minimized as far as possible. To achieve this highest possible ecological validity, a quasi-experimental research design had to be used. Measurements were conducted at the start, mid-way and end of the two-year period. As is customary in scientific research on aggression, a distinction was made between reactive and proactive aggression. After one year, PATHS appeared to have a positive effect on aggression as a whole and reactive aggression in particular in the total group of pupils selected for the study. No change was measured for proactive aggression. A second study in a group of 45 boys with strongly externalizing behaviour problems, showed after one year a trend towards a decrease in reactive aggression. In the mainstream and special needs primary schools there was a significant decline in total and proactive aggression. However, in schools for special education (with severely maladjusted children) PATHS appeared to increase proactive aggression among pupils after one year. After two years overall and proactive aggression had significantly declined in mainstream and special elementary schools. The teachers also indicated that PATHS had had a marginally significant effect on reactive aggression. In the schools for special education, PATHS did not have any effect at all on aggression. But in comparison to the first year results, proactive aggression in special education schools had declined to the same level as in the control group schools. It was also concluded that the effectiveness of PATHS is largely independent on the seriousness of the psycho-social problems of the children. A clinical score on the TRF-scale for Thinking Problems appeared to moderate the effectiveness of PATHS. It emerged that the effectiveness of PATHS was strongly influenced by environmental factors. The absence of effectiveness in schools for special education may be largely due to school- and teacher-related factors. Finally, the effect of PATHS on social information processing was investigated. The variable “response generation” was found to be the strongest mediator for the effectiveness of PATHS. So, the showed effectiveness of PATHS was not the result of a Pygmalion effect in the teachers, who as well were responsible for the PATHS-lessons as for the evaluation of their pupil’s behaviour
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