School-based prevention programs for aggressive and disruptive behavior

Program overview

  • Classroom-based instructional programs focused on ways to reduce violent, aggressive, and disruptive behavior
  • Delivered in general classroom settings, rather than to specific at-risk students
  • Instructional methods include cognitively oriented strategies, social skills training, behavioral strategies, counseling, anger management training, and social problem-solving skills

Evidence and impacts


Ranked as having the highest level of evidence by the National Institute of Justice

  • Meta-analysis of seventy-seven studies found a 25 percent reduction in aggressive or disruptive behavior in students
  • One cost-benefit analysis estimates $14,426 in total social cost savings per participant (2003)
  • Studies report that prevention programs are successful in not only reducing violent behavior, but reducing drug abuse, delinquency, and increasing school attendance and engagement

Best practices in implementation

  • Note: This content is under review
  • Implement programs that are shorter and more intensive; these models are more effective than longer-term, lower-intensity programs.
  • Implement programs as early as kindergarten and second grade; early intervention shows effective and lasting improvement in aggressive behavior.
  • Implement universal programs that are incorporated into the entire school’s curriculum.
  • Focus on increasing positive skills in addition to discouraging aggressive behavior; acknowledging and rewarding children for practicing positive skills is key to long-term adjustment and resilience.
  • For lower grades, focus on disruptive and antisocial behavior and use a cognitive-affective approach. For higher grades, focus on specific forms of violence (like bullying and dating violence) and incorporate greater social skills training.
  • Involve parents, peers, and/or community members while implementing the intervention program.