Effects of problem-solving interventions on aggressive behaviours among primary school pupils in Ibadan, Nigeria.


BACKGROUND: Aggressive patterns of behavior often start early in childhood, and tend to remain stable into adulthood. The negative consequences include poor academic performance, disciplinary problems and encounters with the juvenile justice system. Early school intervention programs can alter this trajectory for aggressive children. However, there are no studies evaluating the feasibility of such interventions in Africa. This study therefore, assessed the effect of group-based problem-solving interventions on aggressive behaviors among primary school pupils in Ibadan, Nigeria. METHODS: This was an intervention study with treatment and wait-list control groups. Two public primary schools in Ibadan Nigeria were randomly allocated to an intervention group and a waiting list control group. Teachers rated male Primary five pupils in the two schools on aggressive behaviors and the top 20 highest scorers in each school were selected. Pupils in the intervention school received 6 twice-weekly sessions of group-based intervention, which included problem-solving skills, calming techniques and attribution retraining. Outcome measures were; teacher rated aggressive behaviour (TRAB), self-rated aggression scale (SRAS), strengths and difficulties questionnaire (SDQ), attitude towards aggression questionnaire (ATAQ), and social cognition and attribution scale (SCAS). RESULTS: The participants were aged 12 years (SD = 1.2, range 9-14 years). Both groups had similar socio-demographic backgrounds and baseline measures of aggressive behaviors. Controlling for baseline scores, the intervention group had significantly lower scores on TRAB and SRAS 1-week post intervention with large Cohen’s effect sizes of 1.2 and 0.9 respectively. The other outcome measures were not significantly different between the groups post-intervention. CONCLUSIONS: Group-based problem solving intervention for aggressive behaviors among primary school students showed significant reductions in both teachers’ and students’ rated aggressive behaviours with large effect sizes. However, this was a small exploratory trial whose findings may not be generalizable, but it demonstrates that psychological interventions for children with high levels of aggressive behaviour are feasible and potentially effective in Nigeria.