Educators are increasingly being encouraged to implement evidence-based interventions and practices to address the social, emotional, and behavioral needs of young children who exhibit problem behavior in early childhood settings. Given the nature of social-emotional learning during the early childhood years and the lack of a common set of core evidence-based practices within the early childhood literature, selection of instructional practices that foster positive social, emotional, and behavioral outcomes for children in early childhood settings can be difficult. The purpose of this paper is to report findings from a study designed to identify common practice elements found in comprehensive intervention models (i.e., manualized interventions that include a number of components) or discrete practices (i.e., a specific behavior or action) designed to target social, emotional, and behavioral learning of young children who exhibit problem behavior. We conducted a systematic review of early childhood classroom interventions that had been evaluated in randomized group designs, quasi-experimental designs, and single-case experimental designs. A total of 49 published articles were identified, and an iterative process was used to identify common practice elements. The practice elements were subsequently reviewed by experts in social-emotional and behavioral interventions for young children. Twenty-four practice elements were identified and classified into content (the goal or general principle that guides a practice element) and delivery (the way in which a teacher provides instruction to the child) categories. We discuss implications that the identification of these practice elements found in the early childhood literature has for efforts to implement models and practices.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
*Baker-Henningham, H., Scott, S., Jones, K., & Walker, S. (2012). Reducing child conduct problems and promoting social skills in a middle-income country: Cluster randomised controlled trial. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 201, 101-108.
Barbarin, O. A. (2007). Mental health screening of preschool children: Validity and reliability of ABLE. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 77, 402–418.
*Barnett, W. S., Jung, K., Yarosz, D. J., Thomas, J., Hornbeck, A., Stechuk, R., & Burns, S. (2008). Educational effects of the Tools of the Mind curriculum: A randomized trial. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 23(3), 299-313.
Barton, E. E., Steed, E. A., Strain, P., Dunlap, G., Powell, D., & Payne, C. J. (2014). An analysis of classroom-based and parent-focused social–emotional programs for young children. Infants & Young Children, 27, 3–29.
*Beaulieu, L., Hanley, G. P., & Roberson, A. A. (2012). Effects of responding to a name and group call on preschoolers’ compliance. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 45(4), 685-707.
Bellg, A. J., Borrelli, B., Resnick, B., Hecht, J., Minicucci, D. S., Ory, M., & Czajkowski, S. (2004). Enhancing treatment fidelity in health behavior change studies: Best practices and recommendations from the NIH behavior change consortium. Health Psychology, 23, 443–451.
*Bellone, K. M., Dufrene, B. A., Tingstrom, D. H., Olmi, D. J., & Barry, C. (2014). Relative efficacy of behavioral interventions in preschool children attending Head Start. Journal of Behavioral Education, 23(3), 378-400.
Beutler, L. E., & Baker, M. (1998). The movement toward empirical validation: At what level should we analyze, and who are the consumers? In K. S. Dobson & K. D. Craig (Eds.), Empirically supported therapies (pp. 43–65). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Press.
*Bierman, K. L., Domitrovich, C. E., Nix, R. L., Gest, S. D., Welsh, J. A., Greenberg, M. T.,…Gill, S. (2008). Promoting academic and social‐emotional school readiness: The Head Start REDI program. Child Development, 79(6), 1802-1817.
*Brown, J. A., Jimerson, S. R., Dowdy, E., Gonzalez, V., & Stewart, K. (2012). Assessing the effects of school‐wide second step implementation in a predominately English language learner, low SES, Latino sample. Psychology in the Schools, 49(9), 864-875.
*Carpenter, E. M., & Nangle, D. W. (2002). Effects of brief verbal instructions on aggression: A replication in a Head Start setting. Child & Family Behavior Therapy, 24(4), 21-38.
Carter, E. W., Lane, K. L., Crnobori, M., Bruhn, A. L., & Oakes, W. P. (2011). Self-determination interventions for students with and at risk for emotional and behavioral disorders: Mapping the knowledge base. Behavioral Disorders, 36, 100–116.
Chorpita, B. F., & Daleiden, E. L. (2009). Mapping evidence-based treatments for children and adolescents: Application of the distillation and matching model to 615 treatments from 322 randomized trials. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 77, 566–579.
Chorpita, B. F., Daleiden, E. L., & Weisz, J. R. (2005). Identifying and selecting the common elements of evidence based interventions: A distillation and matching model. Mental Health Services Research, 7, 5–20.
*Conner, N. W., & Fraser, M. W. (2011). Preschool social–emotional skills training: A controlled pilot test of the Making Choices and Strong Families programs. Research on Social Work Practice, 21(6), 699-711.
*Domitrovich, C. E., Cortes, R. C., & Greenberg, M. T. (2007). Improving young children’s social and emotional competence: A randomized trial of the preschool “PATHS” curriculum. The Journal of Primary Prevention, 28(2), 67-91.
*Driscoll, K. C., & Pianta, R. C. (2010). Banking Time in Head Start: Early efficacy of an intervention designed to promote supportive teacher–child relationships. Early Education and Development, 21(1), 38-64.
*Drogan, R. R., & Kern, L. (2014). Examination of the mechanisms underlying effectiveness of the turtle technique. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 33(4), 237-248.
Durlak, J. A. (2010). The importance of doing well in whatever you do: A commentary on the special section, “Implementation research in early childhood education.”. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 25, 348–357.
Embry, D. D., & Biglan, A. (2008). Evidence-based kernels: Fundamental units of behavioral influence. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 11, 75–113.
Fairburn, C. G., & Patel, V. (2014). The global dissemination of psychological treatments: A road map for research and practice. American Journal of Psychiatry, 171, 495–498.
Feil, E. G., Small, J. W., Forness, S. R., Serna, L. A., Kaiser, A. P., Hancock, T. B., & Burchinal, M. R. (2005). Using different measures, informants, and clinical cut-off points to estimate prevalence of emotional or behavioral disorders in preschoolers: Effects on age, gender, and ethnicity. Behavioral Disorders, 30, 375–391.
*Filcheck, H. A., McNeil, C. B., Greco, L. A., & Bernard, R. S. (2004). Using a whole-class token economy and coaching of teacher skills in a preschool classroom to manage disruptive behavior. Psychology in the Schools, 41(3), 351-361.
*Fullerton, E. K., Conroy, M. A., & Correa, V. I. (2009). Early childhood teachers’ use of specific praise statements with young children at risk for behavioral disorders. Behavioral Disorders, 34(3), 118-125.
Garland, A. F., Hawley, K. M., Brookman-Frazee, L., & Hurlburt, M. S. (2008). Identifying common elements of evidence-based psychosocial treatments for children’s disruptive behavior problems. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 47, 505–514.
Garland, A. F., Bickman, L., & Chorpita, B. F. (2010). Change what? Identifying quality improvement targets by investigating usual mental health care. Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research, 37, 15–26.
*Gettinger, M., & Stoiber, K. C. (2014). Increasing opportunities to respond to print during storybook reading: Effects of evocative print-referencing techniques. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 29(3), 283-297.
*Hamre, B. K., Pianta, R. C., Mashburn, A. J., & Downer, J. T. (2012). Promoting young children’s social competence through the preschool PATHS curriculum and MyTeachingPartner professional development resources. Early Education & Development, 23(6), 809-832.
*Han, S. S., Catron, T., Weiss, B., & Marciel, K. K. (2005). A teacher-consultation approach to social skills training for pre-kindergarten children: Treatment model and short-term outcome effects. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 33(6), 681-693.
*Helker, W. P., & Ray, D. C. (2009). Impact of child teacher relationship training on teachers’ and aides’ use of relationship-building skills and the effects on student classroom behavior. International Journal of Play Therapy, 18(2), 70-83.
Hemmeter, M., Corso, R., & Cheatham, G. (2006). A national survey of early childhood educators: Training needs and strategies (Paper presented at the Conference on Research Innovations in Early Intervention, San Diego, CA).
*Herman, K. C., Borden, L. A., Reinke, W. M., & Webster-Stratton, C. (2011). The impact of the Incredible Years parent, child, and teacher training programs on children’s co-occurring internalizing symptoms. School Psychology Quarterly, 26(3), 189-201.
Hussey, P. S., Mattke, S., Morse, L., & Ridgely, M. (2007). Evaluation of the use of AHRQ and other quality indicators (Vol. Prepared for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality). Rockville, MD: RAND Health.
*Hutchings, J., Martin-Forbes, P., Daley, D., & Williams, M. E. (2013). A randomized controlled trial of the impact of a teacher classroom management program on the classroom behavior of children with and without behavior problems. Journal of School Psychology, 51(5), 571-585.
Institute of Medicine. (2015). Psychosocial interventions for mental and substance use disorders: A framework for establishing evidence-based standards. Retrieved from: http://iom.nationalacademies.org/Reports/2015/Psychosocial-Interventions-Mental-Substance-Abuse-Disorders.aspx.
*Izard, C. E., King, K. A., Trentacosta, C. J., Morgan, J. K., Laurenceau, J., Krauthamer-Ewing, E. S., & Finlon, K. J. (2008). Accelerating the development of emotion competence in head start children: Effects on adaptive and maladaptive behavior. Development and Psychopathology, 20(1), 369-397.
*Izard, C. E., Trentacosta, C. J., King, K. A., & Mostow, A. J. (2004). An emotion-based prevention program for head start children. Early Education & Development, 15(4), 407-422.
*Koglin, U., & Petermann, F. (2011). The effectiveness of the behavioural training for preschool children. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 19(1), 97-111.
*Larmar, S., Dadds, M. R., & Shochet, I. (2006). Successes and challenges in preventing conduct problems in Australian preschool-aged children through the Early Impact program. Behaviour Change, 23(2), 121-137.
*LeBel, T. J., Chafouleas, S. M., Britner, P. A., & Simonsen, B. (2013). Use of a daily report card in an intervention package involving home-school communication to reduce disruptive behavior in preschoolers. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 15(2), 103-112.
LeGray, M. W., Dufrene, B. A., Sterling-Turner, H., Olmi, D. J., & Bellone, K. (2010). A comparison of function-based differential reinforcement interventions for children engaging in disruptive classroom behavior. Journal of Behavioral Education, 19, 185–204.
*Levine, D. G., & Ducharme, J. M. (2013). The effects of a teacher–child play intervention on classroom compliance in young children in child care settings. Journal of Behavioral Education, 22(1), 50-65.
*Ling, S. M., & Barnett, D. W. (2013). Increasing preschool student engagement during group learning activities using a group contingency. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 33(3), 186-196.
*Luczynski, K. C., & Hanley, G. P. (2013). Prevention of problem behavior by teaching functional communication and self‐control skills to preschoolers. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 46(2), 355-368.
*Luczynski, K. C., Hanley, G. P., & Rodriguez, N. M. (2014). An evaluation of the generalization and maintenance of functional communication and self‐control skills with preschoolers. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 47(2), 246-263.
McCabe, P. C., & Altamura, M. (2011). Empirically valid strategies to improve social and emotional competence of preschool children. Psychology in the Schools, 48, 513–540.
McGlynn, E. A., Norquist, G. S., Wells, K. B., Sullivan, G., & Liberman, R. P. (1988). Quality-of-care research in mental health: Responding to the challenge. Inquiry, 25, 157–170.
McLeod, B. D., Southam‐Gerow, M. A., Tully, C. B., Rodríguez, A., & Smith, M. M. (2013). Making a case for treatment integrity as a psychosocial treatment quality indicator for youth mental health care. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 20, 14–32.
*Morris, P., Millenky, M., Raver, C. C., & Jones, S. M. (2013). Does a preschool social and emotional learning intervention pay off for classroom instruction and children’s behavior and academic skills? Evidence from the Foundations of Learning project. Early Education & Development, 24(7), 1020-1042.
*Morrison, M. O., & Bratton, S. C. (2010). Preliminary investigation of an early mental health intervention for Head Start programs: Effects of child teacher relationship training on children’s behavior problems. Psychology in the Schools, 47(10), 1003-1017.
*Murphy, K. A., Theodore, L. A., Aloiso, D., Alric‐Edwards, J. M., & Hughes, T. L. (2007). Interdependent group contingency and mystery motivators to reduce preschool disruptive behavior. Psychology in the Schools, 44(1), 53-63. 205.
National Research Council. (2005). Advancing scientific research in education. In L. Towne, L. L. Wise, & T. M. Winters (Eds.), Committee on Research in Education (Center for Education, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
*Nix, R. L., Bierman, K. L., Domitrovich, C. E., & Gill, S. (2013). Promoting children’s social-emotional skills in preschool can enhance academic and behavioral functioning in kindergarten: Findings from Head Start REDI. Early Education & Development, 24(7), 1000-1019.
O’Conner, E. E., Dearing, E., & Collins, B. A. (2011). Teacher-child relationship and behavior problem trajectories in elementary school. American Educational Research Journal, 48, 120–162.
*Ostrov, J. M., Massetti, G. M., Stauffacher, K., Godleski, S. A., Hart, K. C., Karch, K. M.,…Ries, E. E. (2009). An intervention for relational and physical aggression in early childhood: A preliminary study. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 24(1), 15-28.
*Pahl, K. M., & Barrett, P. M. (2010). Preventing anxiety and promoting social and emotional strength in preschool children: A universal evaluation of the fun FRIENDS program. Advances in School Mental Health Promotion, 3(3), 14-25.
*Petermann, F., & Natzke, H. (2008). Preliminary results of a comprehensive approach to prevent antisocial behaviour in preschool and primary school pupils in Luxembourg. School Psychology International, 29(5), 606-626.
Pincus, H. A., Spaeth-Rublee, B., & Watkins, K. E. (2011). Analysis & commentary: The case for measuring quality in mental health and substance abuse care. Health Affairs, 30, 730–736.
Powell, D., & Dunlap, G. (2009). Evidence-based social-emotional curricula and intervention packages for children 0–5 years and their families (roadmap to effective intervention practices). Tampa, Florida: University of South Florida.
*Ramaswamy, V., & Bergin, C. (2009). Do reinforcement and induction increase prosocial behavior? Results of a teacher-based intervention in preschools. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 23(4), 527-538.
*Raver, C. C., Jones, S. M., Li-Grining, C., Zhai, F., Metzger, M. W., & Solomon, B. (2009). Targeting children’s behavior problems in preschool classrooms: A cluster-randomized controlled trial. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 77(2), 302-316.
*Reinke, W. M., Stormont, M., Herman, K. C., Wang, Z., Newcomer, L., & King, K. (2014). Use of coaching and behavior support planning for students with disruptive behavior within a universal classroom management program. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 22(2), 74-82.
Shadish, W. R., Hedges, L. V., Horner, R. H., & Odom, S. L. (2015). The role of between-case effect size in conducting, interpreting, and summarizing single-case research. Retrieved from: http://ies.ed.gov/ncser/pubs/2015002/pdf/2015002.pdf.
*Shernoff, E. S., & Kratochwill, T. R. (2007). Transporting an evidence-based classroom management program for preschoolers with disruptive behavior problems to a school: An analysis of implementation, outcomes, and contextual variables. School Psychology Quarterly, 22(3), 449-472.
*Smith, C. S., Lewis, T. J., Stormont, M. (2010). The effectiveness of two universal behavioral supports for children with externalizing behavior in Head Start classrooms. Journal of Positive Behavior, 13(3), 133-143.
*Stefan, C. A. (2008). Short-term efficacy of a primary prevention program for the development of social-emotional competencies in preschool children. Cognition, Brain, Behavior, 12(2), 285-307.
*Ştefan, C. A. (2012). Social emotional prevention program for preschool children: An analysis of the high risk sample. Cognition, Brain, Behavior, 16(3), 319-356.
*Ştefan, C. A., & Miclea, M. (2013). Effects of a multifocused prevention program on preschool children’s competencies and behavior problems. Psychology in the Schools, 50(4), 382-402.
*Ştefan, C. A., & Miclea, M. (2012). Classroom effects of a hybrid universal and indicated prevention program for preschool children: A comparative analysis based on social and emotional competence screening. Early Education & Development, 23(3), 393-426.
Sutherland, K. S., McLeod, B. D., Conroy, M. A., & Cox, J. R. (2013). Measuring implementation of evidence-based programs targeting young children at risk for emotional/behavioral disorders: Conceptual issues and recommendations. Journal of Early Intervention, 35, 129–149.
*Tiano, J. D., & McNeil, C. B. (2006). Training head start teachers in behavior management using parent-child interaction therapy: A preliminary investigation. Journal of Early and Intensive Behavior Intervention, 3(2), 220-233.
*Tominey, S. L., & McClelland, M. M. (2011). Red light, purple light: Findings from a randomized trial using circle time games to improve behavioral self-regulation in preschool. Early Education & Development, 22(3), 489-519.
*Upshur, C., Wenz-Gross, M., & Reed, G. (2013). A pilot study of a primary prevention curriculum to address preschool behavior problems. The Journal of Primary Prevention, 34(5), 309-327.
*Webster‐Stratton, C., Reid, M. J., & Stoolmiller, M. (2008). Preventing conduct problems and improving school readiness: Evaluation of the Incredible Years teacher and child training programs in high‐risk schools. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 49(5), 471-488.
*Webster-Stratton, C., Reid, M. J., & Hammond, M. (2004). Treating children with early-onset conduct problems: Intervention outcomes for parent, child, and teacher training. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 33(1), 105-124.
Wolery, M., & Hemmeter, M. L. (2011). Classroom instruction background, assumptions, and challenges. Journal of Early Intervention, 33, 371–380.
Preparation of this article was supported in part by a grant from the Institute of Education Science (R305A140487; McLeod and Sutherland).
This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Electronic supplementary material
Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.
(DOC 126 kb)
About this article
Cite this article
McLeod, B.D., Sutherland, K.S., Martinez, R.G. et al. Identifying Common Practice Elements to Improve Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Outcomes of Young Children in Early Childhood Classrooms. Prev Sci 18, 204–213 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11121-016-0703-y
- Practice elements
- Early childhood
- Social-emotional learning
- Problem behavior