Journal of Primary Prevention

, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 27–45 | Cite as

FAST and the Arms Race: The Interaction of Group Aggression and the Families and Schools Together Program in the Aggressive and Delinquent Behaviors of Inner-City Elementary School Students


This study applies a multi-player arms race model to peer contagion in the aggressive and delinquent behaviors of inner-city elementary school students. Because this model of peer contagion differs from the usual model based on positive reinforcement of delinquent behavior, it raises the possibility that the persistent finding of iatrogenic effects of group treatment might not apply to group treatment of elementary school children if the possibility of aggressive behavior in the group is limited. One way of limiting aggressive behavior is to include parents in the groups. The study therefore applies the model to groups of elementary school students assigned to Families and Schools Together (FAST; a group treatment that includes parental participation) or to an intervention focused on individual families. The model effectively describes the relationship between group averages of aggressive behavior in the classroom and aggressive and delinquent behavior outside the classroom for those students assigned to the individual intervention. The model fits those children assigned to FAST less well, suggesting that FAST may make it less likely that aggressive and delinquent behavior is generalized outside of aggressive classroom settings.

Editors’ Strategic Implications: The authors draw on evolutionary biology, developmental psychology, sociology, and learning theory to present an innovative prevention model and test the promising FAST program. Using longitudinal data from 403 children, their parents, and their teachers, the authors describe how FAST may interfere with the process of escalating aggression.


multi-player arms race model Red Queen model peer contagion aggression delinquent behavior inner-city children iatrogenic effects group treatment parental involvement victimization 



This research was supported in part by NIDA Grant # R01-DA-10067. The authors would like to thank Dr. William Notz of the Ohio State University Department of Statistics and Dr. William Brock of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Economics for their valuable suggestions. Any errors are entirely the fault of the current authors.


  1. Achenbach, T., & McConaughy, S. (1997). Empirically based assessment of child and adolescent psychopathology: Practical applications. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  2. Anderson, E. (1994). The code of the streets. Atlantic Monthly, 273, 81–94.Google Scholar
  3. Anderson, E. (1999). Code of the street: Decency, violence and the moral life of the inner city. New York: W.W. Norton.Google Scholar
  4. Aronson, E. (2000). Nobody left to hate: Teaching compassion after Columbine. New York: W.H. Freeman.Google Scholar
  5. Bandura, A. (1983). Psychological mechanisms of aggression. In R. G. Geen & E. I. Donnerstein (Eds.), Aggression: Theoretical and empirical reviews. Volume 1: Theoretical and methodological issues (pp. 1–40). New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.Google Scholar
  6. Dishion, T. J., & Kavanagh, K. (2003). Intervening in adolescent problem behavior: A family-centered approach. New York: The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  7. Dishion, T. J., McCord, J., & Poulin, F. (1999). When interventions harm: Peer groups and problem behavior. American Psychologist, 54(9), 755–764.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Dishion, T. J., Poulin, F., & Burraston, B. (2001). Peer group dynamics associated with iatrogenic effects in group interventions with high-risk young adolescents. In D. W. Nangle & C. A. Erdley (Eds.), The role of friendship in psychological adjustment (pp. 79–92). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  9. Erickson, C. L., Mattaini, M. A., & McGuire, M. S. (2004). Constructing nonviolent cultures in schools: The state of the science. Children and Schools, 26(2), 102–116.Google Scholar
  10. Feldman, R. (1992). The St. Louis experiment: Effective treatment of antisocial youths in prosocial peer groups. In J. McCord & R. E. Tremblay (Eds.), Preventing antisocial behavior: Interventions from birth through adolescence (pp. 233–252). New York: The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  11. Hall, W. M., & Cairns, R. B. (1984). Aggressive behavior in children: An outcome of modeling or social reciprocity? Developmental Psychology, 20(5), 739–745.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Ialongo, N., Poduska, J., Werthamer, L., & Kellam, S. (2001). The distal impact of two first-grade preventive interventions on conduct problems and disorder in early adolescence. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 9(3), 146–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Ialongo, N. S., Werthamer, L., Kellam, S. G., Brown, C. H., Wang, S., & Lin, Y. (1999). Proximal impact of two first-grade preventive interventions on the early risk behaviors for later substance abuse, depression, and antisocial behavior. American Journal of Community Psychology, 27(5), 599–641.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Insightful Corporation. (2001). S-Plus 6 for Windows guide to statistics, Volume I. Seattle, WA: Insightful Corporation.Google Scholar
  15. Kellam, S., Ling, X., Merisca, R., Brown, C., & Ialongo, N. (1998). The effect of the level of aggression in the first grade classroom on the course and malleability of aggressive behavior into middle school. Development and Psychopathology, 10(2), 165–185.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Maynard Smith, J. (1976). A comment on the Red Queen. American Naturalist, 110, 325–330.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. McDonald, L. (2000). FAST team trainer manual. Madison, WI: Fast National Training and Evaluation Center.Google Scholar
  18. McDonald, L., Billingham, S., Conrad, T., Morgan, A. O. N., & Payton, E. (1997). Families and Schools Together (FAST): Integrating community development with clinical strategies. Families in Society, 78(2), 140–155.Google Scholar
  19. McDonald, L., & Sayger, T. (1998). Impact of a family and school based prevention program on protective factors for high risk youth. Drugs and Society, 12(1–2), 61–85.Google Scholar
  20. Moberg, D. P., McDonald, L., Posner, J. K., Burke, M. P., & Brown, R. L. (2005). Randomized trial of Families and Schools Together (FAST): Two year outcomes. Manuscript submitted for publication.Google Scholar
  21. Patterson, G. R., Dishion, T. J., & Yoerger, K. (2000). Adolescent growth in new forms of problem behavior: Macro- and micro-peer dynamics. Prevention Science, 1(1), 3–13.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Patterson, G. R., Littman, R. A., & Bricker, W. (1967). Assertive behavior in children: A step toward a theory of aggression. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 32(5), 1–43.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Patterson, G. R., Dishion, T. J., & Yoerger, K. (2000). Adolescent growth in new forms of problem behavior: Macro- and micro-peer dynamics. Prevention Science, 1(1), 3–13.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Reid, J. B., Patterson, G. R., & Snyder, J. (2002). Antisocial behavior in children and adolescents: A developmental analysis and model for intervention. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  25. Snyder, J., & Brown, K. (1983). Oppositional behavior and noncompliance in preschool children: Environmental correlates and skills deficits. Behavioral Assessment, 5(4), 333–348.Google Scholar
  26. Sullivan, K. (2000). The anti-bullying handbook. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Van Valen, L. (1973). A new evolutionary law. Evolutionary Theory, 1, 1–18.Google Scholar
  28. Vermeij, G. J. (1994). The evolutionary interaction among species: Selection, escalation and coevolution. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, 25, 219–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Wilson, D. S. (2002). Darwin's cathedral: Evolution, religion and the nature of society. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Social WorkThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA
  2. 2.Department of Population Health SciencesUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonColumbusUSA
  3. 3.Wisconsin Center for Educational ResearchUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonColumbusUSA
  4. 4.College of Social WorkThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA

Personalised recommendations