Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 43, Issue 4, pp 749–760 | Cite as

An Emotion-Focused Early Intervention for Children with Emerging Conduct Problems

  • Sophie S. Havighurst
  • Melissa Duncombe
  • Emma Frankling
  • Kerry Holland
  • Christiane Kehoe
  • Robyn Stargatt


This paper evaluates the real-world effectiveness of an emotion-focused, multi-systemic early intervention combining an emotion socialization parenting program with a child and school socio-emotional intervention for children with emerging conduct problems. Schools in lower socioeconomic areas of Victoria, Australia were randomized into intervention or wait-list control. Children in the first 4 years of elementary school were screened for behavior problems and those in the top 8 % of severity were invited to participate in the intervention. The study sample consisted of 204 primary caregivers and their children (Mage = 7.05, SD = 1.06; 74 % boys). Data were collected at baseline and 10 months later using parent and teacher reports and direct child assessment. Measures of parent emotion socialization, family emotion expressiveness, and children’s emotion competence, social competence and behavior were administered. Results showed intervention parents but not controls became less emotionally dismissive and increased in empathy, and children showed better emotion understanding and behavior compared to control children. These outcomes lend support for an emotion-focused approach to early intervention in a real-world context for children with conduct problems.


Emotion coaching Emotion socialization Emotion competence Behavior problems Parenting Early intervention Multi-systemic intervention 



We thank the Department of Education and Early Child Development, the Catholic Education Office and the organizations who contributed funding including the Victorian State Government and Australian Rotary Health. We also extend our thanks to all the parents, children, teachers and school staff who participated in this study.

Conflict of Interest

The first author discloses a conflict of interest because she disseminates the Tuning in to Kids program.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sophie S. Havighurst
    • 1
  • Melissa Duncombe
    • 2
  • Emma Frankling
    • 3
  • Kerry Holland
    • 4
  • Christiane Kehoe
    • 1
  • Robyn Stargatt
    • 5
  1. 1.Mindful: Centre for Training and Research in Developmental HealthUniversity of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.School of Psychological SciencesUniversity of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia
  3. 3.Austin Child and Adolescent Mental Health ServiceHeidelbergAustralia
  4. 4.Bendigo Health Child and Adolescent Mental Health ServiceBendigoAustralia
  5. 5.Department of PsychologyLa Trobe UniversityMelbourneAustralia

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