Externalizing and Skill building


Externalizing Behavior

Intervention Family

Skill-Building Interventions

Externalizing and Skill Building

Interventions in the skill-building family (PDF, 2 pages) train youth to manage challenging social interactions and improve their internal emotional responses to social interactions. This type of skills training is intended to reduce the potential for conflict and externalizing behavior. Skill-building interventions may focus directly on interpersonal skills, social problem-solving, and conflict resolution skills. They may also focus on skills for managing emotional or executive responses to social situations, such as anger or impulsivity, that may inhibit positive social interactions.

Skill-building interventions typically take place in school settings, and can be delivered by teachers, counselors, or others who work with youth to build skills, usually with a detailed curriculum or manual. Providers often model the skills for youth and then use role-playing, practice, and reinforcement to promote internalization of skills.

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Characteristics of skill-building interventions (121 studies contributed evidence):

  • Interventions lasted 15 weeks, on average.
  • Sessions typically took place once or twice per week.
  • Interventions took place in the classroom (30%), in a separate space within the school (resource room or school counselor's office; 55%), or a community setting (15%).
  • Most used a manual or dedicated lesson plan (69% of programs).
  • Almost all we delivered using a group format (91% of interventions).

Intervention examples

  • A school-based social problem-solving intervention trained students in the use of the following problem-solving sequence: (1) identify the problem, (2) inhibit inappropriate responses, (3) find alternative actions, and (4) consider consequences.
  • A school-based social skills intervention aimed to improve the emotional awareness, social problem-solving, behaviors, and cognitive/academic performance for participating children. The intervention followed a structured curriculum covering three main units: 1) self-control, 2) identifying feelings, and 3) interpersonal cognitive problem solving. During the structured sessions, students participated in group discussions, roleplaying, and educational games. Classroom behavioral reinforcement was sometimes used in tandem with the lessons.
  • An intervention for students who exhibited inappropriate control of their anger and related behaviors included 15 semi-structured lessons that focused on: 1) handling and identifying anger, 2) effective communications, 3) relaxation techniques, and 4) problem-solving skills. The students engaged in role-playing and modeling, recorded situations that provoked anger in logs, and used them as examples in the lessons. Students learned to walk themselves through a procedure for solving problems and to selfreinforce their behaviors.