The highest rates of oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and conduct disorder
(CD) are found in low-income welfare families. The Head Start program is for the
“continued enhancement of services for poor children ages zero to five, and their
families.” The parents of the children in the Head Start program are rarely examined.
Head Start instead focuses on the academic performance of the involved children. The
article, “Preventing Conduct Problems in Head Start Children: Strengthening Parenting
Competencies” in The Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology decides to take a
different approach. Instead of singling out the child and holding only the child
responsible for their social and academic behavior, they put the responsibility on the
family, the school as well as the child.
Nine centers were chosen from within one large urban Head Start district
(representing six school districts) on the basis of their similarity in terms of ethnic
minority percentages, teachers qualifications, family service workers qualifications and
education, number of classrooms, number of children, children’s enrollment age, and
length of Head Start class (4 hr per day). Another factor was their willingness to
participate in the study and to be randomly assigned to either the intervention group
(PARTNERS), which is supposed to be an early prevention group to prevent the
development of ODD and CD in young children. Or being randomly assigned to the
CONTROL group (Head Starts regular curriculum).
The Nine Head Start centers were randomly assigned to either groups. This is a
plus because the whole center, not just a few classes in the center, is involved in the
chosen program. Also, the centers didn’t debate on which program that they’d like to
participate in. There were more families in the experimental group than in the control
group. The Partners or Control program is the independent variable (depending on which
group the child is a part of). The child’s conduct is the dependent variable.