Prevention Science

, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 30–40 | Cite as

Toward Tailored Interventions: Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Functioning Predicts Responses to an Intervention for Conduct Problems Delivered in Two Formats

  • Andrea L. GlennEmail author
  • John E. Lochman
  • Thomas Dishion
  • Nicole P. Powell
  • Caroline Boxmeyer
  • Francesca Kassing
  • Lixin Qu
  • Devon Romero


Coping Power is an evidence-based preventive intervention for youth with aggressive behavior problems that has traditionally been delivered in small group formats, but because of concerns about potentially diminished effects secondary to aggregation of high-risk youth, an individual format of Coping Power has been developed. The current study examined whether physiological characteristics of the child may provide information about which intervention delivery format works best for that individual. Indicators of sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system functioning were examined in 360 fourth-grade children (65% male; 76.4% self-reported African-American) who were randomly assigned to Group Coping Power (GCP) or Individual Coping Power (ICP) (Lochman et al. 2015). Longitudinal assessments of teacher- and parent-reported proactive and reactive aggression were collected through a 1-year follow-up. For children with higher initial levels of aggression, those with lower parasympathetic functioning at pre-intervention showed greater reductions in teacher-rated proactive aggression in the ICP condition than the GCP condition. For children with high parasympathetic functioning, there was no differential effect of intervention format. Regardless of intervention format, youth with lower levels of sympathetic functioning at pre-intervention demonstrated greater reductions in teacher-rated proactive aggression. These findings suggest that physiological indicators may be worth considering in future studies examining which youth respond best to specific types of interventions.


Skin conductance Respiratory sinus arrhythmia Aggression Conduct problems Intervention Physiology 


Funding Information

This research was supported by grants from NIDA (R01 DA023156) and the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (R01 HD079273).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

None of the authors except for John Lochman has a conflict of interest. John Lochman is co-developer of the Coping Power program and receives royalties for the implementation guide published by Oxford University Press.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

11121_2017_859_MOESM1_ESM.docx (182 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 182 kb)


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Copyright information

© Society for Prevention Research 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrea L. Glenn
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • John E. Lochman
    • 1
  • Thomas Dishion
    • 3
  • Nicole P. Powell
    • 1
  • Caroline Boxmeyer
    • 1
  • Francesca Kassing
    • 1
  • Lixin Qu
    • 1
  • Devon Romero
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for the Prevention of Youth Behavior ProblemsThe University of AlabamaTuscaloosaUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyThe University of AlabamaTuscaloosaUSA
  3. 3.Arizona State UniversityTempeUSA

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