Social skills training with underachievers, disruptive, and exceptional children


  • Mary J. Rotheram

    Corresponding author
    1. California State University, Los Angeles
    • Dept. of Psychology, California State University—Los Angeles, 5151 University Dr., Los Angeles, CA 90032
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    • Michael Armstrong, Curt Booraem, and Ivy Whitmeyer were of assistance during the data collection. Mr. Heil, Dr. Terry Argast, and Dr. Pamela Reagor assisted in coordinating the project in the school. Michael Wapner and Michael Roffe helped in editing the paper.


One hundred-one fourth, fifth, and sixth graders at a Southern California elementary school were randomly assigned by classroom to either a social skills training program or a no treatment control condition. On the basis of teacher ratings, subpopulations of subjects were identified: 17 Underachievers, 40 Disruptive children, 29 children with Multiple Problems, and 15 Exceptional children. In the intervention classes, subjects were randomly assigned to groups of 6 subjects each and received training for one hour twice a week for 12 weeks. Measures of social skills, peer popularity, teacher ratings, and grade-point averages were collected to evaluate the intervention. The results indicated that subjects improved most in the area not targeted as a problem for the subject; i.e., Underachievers improved their social relationships, Disruptive children increased in academic skills, and Exceptional children increased significantly in both areas. A discussion followed of the optimum intervention strategy, building on children's existing strengths vs. targeting deficits.