Five-Year Longitudinal Study

A study of children from kindergarten through fourth grade (Shure, 1993), funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, was the culmination of 20 years of research to test the ICPS/behavioral mediation hypothesis. Children were trained by their kindergarten teachers, some were retrained by their first-grade teachers, and some were retrained by their mothers. All were compared with children who were only trained in kindergarten or never trained at all.

In addition to studying the longer range impact of ICPS training, Shure made clearer distinctions to define how parents and teachers talk to, or with, children when real problems occur (Shure, 1997b). She delineated four levels of communication to distinguish ICPS dialoging (asking techniques) from negative punishment and from even more positive suggestions or giving explanations (telling techniques).

Bullet Level l: Power assertion (demands, belittles, punishes).

  • Do it because I say so!
  • Do you want a spanking?
  • How many times have I told you . . . !
  • If you can't share the truck, I'll take it away and neither of you can have it.
Bullet Level 2: Positive alternative (no explanation).

  • I'm on the phone now, go watch TV.
  • Ask him for the truck.
  • You should share your toys.
Bullet Level 3: Induction (explanations and reasons).

  • I feel angry when you interrupt me.
  • If you hit, you'll lose a friend (hurt him).
  • You'll make him angry if you hit him (grab toys).
  • You shouldn't hit (grab). It's not nice.
Bullet Level 4: Problem-solving process, ICPS dialoging.

  • What's the problem? What's the matter?
  • How do you think I (she/he) feel(s) when you hit (grab)?
  • What happened (might happen) when you did (do) that?
  • Can you think of a different way to solve this problem (tell him/her/me how you feel)?
  • Do you think that is or is not a good idea? Why (why not)?

In 1972, in the fall of their kindergarten year (the beginning of the study), 542 low-income African-American public school children (264 boys, 278 girls) were studied, of whom 120 boys and 132 girls were still available at the end of fourth grade (Shure, 1993). Of these, 46 were trained by their mothers (27 boys and 19 girls in first grade, following teacher training in kindergarten). By fourth grade, 27 of the 46 mother-trained children were still available for study, a percentage typical for low-income African-American youth. The remainder could no longer be located in the school system, which suggested that they had moved out of the city or enrolled in private schools. The results presented below are all statistically significant.

Bullet Among the 200 boys and 180 girls still remaining at the end of the first grade (first training assessment), children who were trained by their kindergarten teachers, children who were trained by their kindergarten and first grade teachers, and children who were trained by their kindergarten teachers and by their mothers in first grade were, compared with controls, significantly ahead in ICPS skills, especially alternative solution skills. They also had significantly lower mean scores on negative behaviors, as rated by independent observers on the Direct Observation Form (Achenbach and Edelbrock, 1983) and significantly higher mean scores on rated positive behaviors. This was especially true for those who were trained for 2 years by their teachers.
Bullet In the second grade, 162 boys and 162 girls still remained. Alternative solution thinking, superior in all three trained groups at the end of the first grade, remained so at the end of the second grade, with the 2-year teacher-trained group maintaining their superiority in both sexes. The mother-trained children were the least impulsive, the least withdrawn, and showed the fewest behavior problems as observed by independent raters. The same was true for the boys trained by teachers for 1 or 2 years.
Bullet After some slippage in behavior in the third grade, the 120 boys and 132 girls still available for the study in the fourth grade showed superior alternative solution thinking skills in all trained groups, with 2-year teacher-trained children emerging as the best adjusted group of all. Among parent-trained children, those whose mothers best applied problem-solving dialoging (measured 3 years earlier) were still maintaining their significant behavior gains at the end of the fourth grade, when the study was completed.

After a while, ICPS dialogs can be shortened. One mother watching her two sons, ages 5 and 3, playing tug-of-war over a truck simply asked, "Can you two think of a different way to solve this problem?" The 5-year-old told his brother that he could have the truck for a little while, but when it was his turn, he'd have to give it back. Before ICPS training, this mother would have taken the toy away and told her sons, "If you two can't share, I'll put it away," leaving both children angry and frustrated instead of proud of their own solution.

ICPS Dialoging

Below is how one ICPS-trained mother used level 4 ICPS dialoging with her 4-year-old son who hit his friend.

Mother: What happened? What's the problem? (eliciting child's view of the problem).

Child: He hit me first.

Mother: What happened before he hit you? (using ICPS vocabulary word "before" is less threatening than an accusatory question such as "Why did you hit him?").

Child: I took his toy.

Mother: What happened when you hit him?

Child: He hit me back.

Mother: How do you think he feels when you take his toys and hit him? (guiding the child to think of other's feelings).

Child: Mad.

Mother: And yow did you feel when he hit you? (guiding child to think of his feelings too.

Child: Mad.

Mother: You're mad and he's mad. Can you think of a different way to solve this problem?

Preventing Violence Juvenile Justice Bulletin   ·  April 1999