Research Findings

Looking for research findings on the Second Step program for a grant proposal or to bolster buy-in? Read the following summaries of findings, organized by publication date.

Social-Emotional Learning and Bullying Prevention: Translating Research into Practice

Smith, B. H., & Low, S. (2013). The role of social-emotional learning in bullying prevention efforts. Theory Into Practice, 52(4), 280–287.

This article examines how social-emotional learning (SEL) contributes to bullying prevention efforts in schools. SEL has been shown to be an effective component in comprehensive bullying prevention interventions and other interventions targeting problems such as substance abuse. SEL programs have also been shown to improve student skills, reduce problem behaviors, and increase academic achievement. This article discusses how skills taught in SEL programs contribute to bullying prevention and shows the research links between SEL skills and bullying.

Read more about this study.

Physical Aggression 42 Percent Less Likely

Espelage, D. L., Low, S., Polanin, J. R., & Brown, E. C. (2013). The impact of a middle school program to reduce aggression, victimization, and sexual violence. Journal of Adolescent Health, 53(2), 180–186.

Thirty-six middle schools in the Chicago and Wichita areas participated in an evaluation of the Second Step middle school program. Schools in the study were randomly assigned to teach either the Second Step program or be control schools. After one year, sixth-graders in schools that implemented the Second Step program were 42 percent less likely to say they were involved in physical aggression compared to sixth-graders in schools that did not implement the program.

Read more about this study.

Significant Increases in Fifth- and Sixth-Graders’ Social Competence

Holsen, I., Smith, B., & Frey, K. S. (2008). Outcomes of the social competence program Second Step in Norwegian elementary schools. School Psychology International, 29(1), 71–88.

Holsen, I., Iversen, A. C., & Smith, B. (2009). Universal social competence programme in school: Does it work for children with low socio-economic background? Advances in School Mental Health Promotion, 2(2), 51–60.

Two recent journal articles describe a study of the effects of the Norwegian version of the Second Step program, Steg for Steg, on fifth- and sixth-grade students. The first set of findings from the study showed that the program resulted in significant increases in social competence for both boys and girls across the fifth and sixth grades. The second set of findings showed that low socioeconomic-status (SES) students reported greater improvement in social competence, school performance, and satisfaction with life compared to their middle and upper SES peers.

Read more about this study.

Citywide Implementation in Elementary Schools

Cooke, M. B., Ford, J., Levine, J., Bourke, C., Newell, L., & Lapidus, G. (2007). The effects of city-wide implementation of “Second Step” on elementary school students’ prosocial and aggressive behaviors.The Journal of Primary Prevention, 28(2), 93–115.

Students showed significant improvements in positive approach/coping, caring/cooperative behavior, suppression of aggression, and consideration of others. Nearly three-quarters of teachers reported that the Second Step program helped their students during the implementation year, and 91.7 percent said that the Second Step program would help their students in future.

Read more about this study.

Less Adult Conflict Intervention, Improved Social Competence

Frey, K. S., Nolen, S. B., Edstrom, L. V., & Hirschstein, M. K. (2005). Effects of a school-based social-emotional competence program: Linking children’s goals, attributions, and behavior. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 26, 171–200.

Researchers from Committee for Children and the University of Washington collaborated on a study that examined the effectiveness of the Second Step program in helping children resolve conflicts, avoid disputes, and behave more prosocially.

Read more about this study.

Gains in Prosocial Skills and Behavior

Edwards, D., Hunt, M. H., Meyers, J., Grogg, K. R., & Jarrett, O. (2005). Acceptability and student outcomes of a violence prevention curriculum. The Journal of Primary Prevention, 26, 401–418.

A pre/post design of 455 fourth- and fifth-grade students in a small urban school district was studied to evaluate the efficacy of the Second Step curriculum. After students received the Second Step program they showed significant gains in knowledge about social-emotional skills. Report card data also revealed modest gains in prosocial behavior.

Read more about this study.

Decline in Anxious and Depressed Behavior

Schick, A., & Cierpka, M. (2005). Faustlos: Evaluation of a curriculum to prevent violence in elementary schools. Applied and Preventive Psychology, 11, 157–165.

An experimental study of the Faustlos program (the German translation of the Second Step program) was conducted with 716 children ages five to eight.

Read more about this study.

Increased Social Competence

Taub, J. (2002). Evaluation of the Second Step violence prevention program at a rural elementary school. School Psychology Review, 31(2), 186–200.

A quasi-experimental evaluation of the Second Step curriculum was conducted with 87 third- through fifth-grade students in a rural elementary school.

Read more about this study.

Translating Research into Effective Practice

Sprague, J., Walker, H., Golly, A., White, K., Myers, D. R., & Shannon, T. (2001). Translating research into effective practice: The effects of a universal staff and student intervention on indicators of discipline and school safety. Education and Treatment of Children, 24(4), 495–511.

Read more about this study.

Increased Knowledge of Social Skills

McMahon, S. D., Washburn, J., Felix, E. D., Yakin, J., & Childrey, G. (2000). Violence prevention: Program effects on urban preschool and kindergarten children. Applied and Preventive Psychology, 9, 271–281.

McMahon and colleagues examined the effectiveness of the Second Step program in improving social-skills knowledge and social competence among 109 urban low-income, ethnically diverse children in preschool and kindergarten.

Read more about this study.

Aggression Decreases, Positive Behavior Increases

Grossman, D. C., Neckerman, H. J., Koepsell, T. D., Liu, P. Y., Asher, K. N., Beland, K., Frey, K., & Rivara, F. P. (1997). Effectiveness of a violence prevention curriculum among children in elementary school: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of the American Medical Association, 277(20), 1605–1611.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funded a one-year experimental evaluation of the Second Step curriculum to examine its impact on aggression and positive social behavior among second- and third-grade students.

Read more about this study.

Related Chapters and Articles

The following chapter and article feature in-depth information about the Second Step program, tying together both the framework of the program and its evidence base.

Fitzgerald, P. D., & Edstrom, L. V. (2006). Second Step: A violence prevention curriculum. In S. Jimerson & M. Furlong (Eds.), The Handbook of School Violence and School Safety: From Research to Practice. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

This chapter describes the conceptual foundation and specific goals, content, and practices found in the Second Step program. A summary of evidence of program effectiveness is provided, as is information related to program implementation.

Frey, K. S., Hirschstein, M. K., & Guzzo, B. (2000). Second Step: Preventing aggression by promoting social competence. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 8, 102–112.

Theory and findings related to core competencies are described, as are features of lessons, teacher training, and classroom instruction that promote learning and use of specific behavioral skills. Classroom, school, and family contexts that support student use and transfer of skills are also discussed. A review of formative and outcome-evaluation studies of the Second Step program highlights challenges and recommendations related to program implementation.

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