Achieving Generalization in School-Based Mental Health

  • Steven W. Evans
  • Joshua Langberg
  • Jeff Williams†
Part of the Issues in Clinical Child Psychology book series (ICCP)

School-based mental health services present a unique opportunity to improve the effectiveness of mental health care for children. One of the key advantages to school-based mental health services is the opportunity to successfully generalize treatment gains to the settings in which the presenting problems exists (Evans, 1999). This type of service is especially timely, as studies are raising questions about the effectiveness of many clinic-based treatments often fail is particularly interesting in light of the fact that laboratory studies consistently document the effectiveness of various treatments (Kazdin & Weisz, 1998)

Many efforts have been made to bridge the gap between the lab and the clinic with the hopes of increasing the effectiveness of the general practice of psychotherapy. Unfortunately, these efforts are unlikely to yield the intended results until the field increases its emphasis on the generalization of treatment gains. The lack of emphasis on generalization has been a limitation in the literature for a long time (Rutter, 1982), yet it is central to the goals of treatment. A review of the child behaviour therapy literature revealed that less than 50% of the 904 treatment studies reviewed reported data on generalization (Allen et al., 1991). While methods for achieving generalization are described in the literature (e.g., Evans, Axelrod, & Sapia, 2000; Stokes & Osnes, 1989), there continues to be a lack of emphasis on this critical element of treatment outcome


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Allen, J. S., Jr., Tarnowski, K. J., Simonian, S. J., Elliott, D., & Drabman, R. S. (1991). The generalization map revisited: Assessment of generalized treatment effects in child and adolescent behavior therapy. Behavior Therapy, 22, 393–405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anderson, C. G., Rush, D., Ayllon, T., & Kandel, H. (1987). Training and generalization of social skills with problem children. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychology, 4(4), 294–298.Google Scholar
  3. Berg, W., Wacker, D., Ebbers, B., Wiggins, B., Fowler, M., & Wilkes, P. (1995). A demonstration of generalization of performance across settings, materials, and motor responses for students with profound mental retardation. Behavior Modification, 19,119–143.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bierman, K. L., & Furman, W. (1984). The effects of social skills training and peer involvement on the social adjustment of preadolescents. Child Development, 55,151–162.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brantley, D. C, & Webster, R. E. (1993). Use of an independent group contingency management system in a regular classroom setting. Psychology in the Schools, 37(2), 60–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Broussard, C, & Northup, J. (1997). The use of functional analysis to develop peer interventions for disruptive classroom behavior. School Psychology Quarterly, 22(1), 65–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Buehler, R. E., Patterson, G. R., & Furniss, J. M. (1966). The reinforcement of behavior in institutional settings. Behavior Research and Therapy, 4,157–167.Google Scholar
  8. Christopher, J. S., Hansen, D. J, & MacMillan, V. M. (1991). Effectiveness of a peer-helper intervention to increase children's social interactions: Generalization, maintenance, and social validation. Behavior Modification, 15(1), 22–50.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Clark, L. A., & McKenzie, H. S. (1989). Effects of self-evaluation training of seriously emotionally disturbed children on the generalization of their classroom rule following and work behavior across settings and teachers. Behavioral Disorders, 14(2), 89–98.Google Scholar
  10. Clarke, G., Lewinsohn, P., & Hops, H. (1990). Leader's manual for adolescent groups: Adolescent coping with depression course. Retrieved February 8, 2002, from
  11. Clees, T. J. (1994). Self-recording of students' daily schedules of teachers' expectations: Perspectives on reactivity, stimulus control, and generalization. Exceptionality, 5(3), 113–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cowen, E. L., Pederson, A., Babigian, H., Izzo, L. D., & Trost, M. A. (1973). Long-term follow-up of early detected vulnerable children. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 41(3), 438–446.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Davies, S., & Witte, R. (2000). Self-management and peer-monitoring within a group contingency to decrease uncontrolled verbalizations of children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Psychology in the Schools, 37(2), 135–147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dodge, K. A. (1983). Behavioral antecedents of peer social status. Child Development, 54,1386–1399.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Douglas, V. I. (1983). Attentional and cognitive problems. In M. Rutter (Ed.), Developmental neuropsychiatry(pp. 280–329). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  16. Drabman, R. S., Hammer, D., & Rosenbaum, M. S. (1979). Assessing generalization in behavior modification with children: The generalization map. Behavioral Assessment, 1.Google Scholar
  17. Edelstein, B. A. (1989). Generalization: Terminological, methodological, and conceptual issues. Behavior Therapy, 20, 311–324.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Ervin, R., Radford, P. M., Bertsch, K., Piper, A. L., Ehrhardt, K. E., & Poling, A. (2001). A descriptive analysis and critique of the empirical literature on school-based functional assessment. School Psychology Review, 30,193–210.Google Scholar
  19. Evans, S. W. (1999). Mental health services in schools: Utilization, effectiveness, and consent. Clinical Psychology Review, 19(2), 165–178.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Evans, S. W. (in press). Challenging horizons program: Treatment manual. Unpublished manuscript.Google Scholar
  21. Evans, S. W., Axelrod, J. L., & Langberg, J. (2002). Efficacy of a school-based treatment program for middle school youth with ADHD: Pilot data. Behavior Modification.Google Scholar
  22. Evans, S. W., Axelrod, J. L., & Sapia, J. L. (2000). Effective school-based interventions: Advancing the social skills training paradigm. Journal of School Health, 70(5), 191–194.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Evans, S. W., Vallano, G., & Pelham, W. E. (1995). Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. In V. B. Van Hasselt & M. Hersen (Eds.), Handbook of adolescent psychopathology. A guide to diagnosis and treatment(pp. 589–617). New York: Lexington Books.Google Scholar
  24. Foxx, R. M., McMorrow, M. J., Bittle, R., & Ness, J. (1986). An analysis of social skills generalization in two natural settings. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 19, 299–305.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Foxx, R. M, McMorrow, M. J., & Schloss, C. N. (1983). Stacking the deck: Teaching social skills to retarded adults with a modified table game. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 18, 157–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gregory, K. M., Kehle, T. J., & McLoughlin, C. S. (1997). Generalization and maintenance of treatment gains using self-management procedures with behaviorally disordered adolescents. Psychological Reports, 80, 683–690.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Gresham, F. M., Watson, T. S., & Skinner, C. H. (2001). Functional behavioral assessment: Principles, procedures, and future directions. School Psychology Review, 30,156–172.Google Scholar
  28. Guevremont, D. C., MacMillan, V. M., Shawchuck, C. R., & Hansen, D. J. (1989). A peer-medicated intervention with clinic-referred socially isolated girls: Generalization, maintenance, and social validation. Behavior Modification, 13(1), 32–50.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hatch, J. A. (1987). Peer interaction and the development of social competence. Child Study Journal, 17(3), 169–183.Google Scholar
  30. Herring, M., & Northup, J. (1998). The generalization of social skills for a child with behavior disorders in the school setting. Child and Family Behavior Therapy, 20(3), 51–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hollinger, J. D. (1987). Social skills for behaviorally disordered children as preparation for mainstream-ing: Theory, practice, and new directions. Remedial and Special Education, 8(4), 17–27.Google Scholar
  32. Tlsdelle, D. A., & St. Lawrence, J. S. (1988). Adolescent interpersonal problem-solving skill training: Social validation and generalization. Behavior Therapy, 19,171–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Wahler, R. G. (1967). Child-child interactions in free field settings: Some experimental analyses. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 5, 278–293.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Weiss, B., Catron, T., Harris, V., & Phung, T. M. (1999). The effectiveness of traditional child therapy. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 7(1), 82–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Weist, M. D. (1997). Expanded school mental health services: A national movement in progress. In T. H. Ollendick & R. J. Prinz (Eds.), Advances in clinical child psychology. New York: Plenum Press.Google Scholar
  36. Weisz, J. R., Weiss, B., Han, S. S., Granger, D. A., & Morton, T. (1995). Effects of psychotherapy with children and adolescents revisited: A meta-analysis of treatment outcome studies. Psychological Bulletin, 117(3), 450–468.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Wells, K. C, Pelham, W. E., Kotkin, R. A., Hoza, B., Abikoff, H. B., Abramowitz, A. J., Arnold, D. S., Cantwell, D., Conners, C. K., DelCarmen, R., Elliott, G., Greenhill, L. L., Hechtman, L., Swanson, J. M., & Schiller, E. (2000). Psychosocial treatment strategies in the MTA study: Rationale, methods, and critical issues in design and implementation. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 28(6), 483–505.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Kazdin, A. E., & Weisz, J. R. (1998). Identifying and developing empirically supported child and adolescent treatments. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 66,19–36.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Kohler, F. W., & Greenwood, C. R. (1986). Toward a technology of generalization: The identification of natural contingencies of reinforcement. The Behavior Analyst, 9,19–26.Google Scholar
  40. Kollins, S. H., Lane, S. D., & Shapiro, S. K. (1997). Experimental analysis of childhood psychopathology: A laboratory matching analysis of the behavior of children diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The Psychological Record, 47, 25–44.Google Scholar
  41. Langhorne, J., Clees, T. J., Oxford, M., Malone, M, & Ross, G. (1995). Acquisition and generalization of social skills by high school students with mild mental retardation, Mental Retardation, 33, 186–196.Google Scholar
  42. Mathur, S. R., & Rutherford, R. B., Jr. (1996). Is social skills training effective for students with emotional or behavioral disorders? Research issues and needs. Behavioral Disorders, 22(1), 21–28.Google Scholar
  43. Murray, L. K, & Kollins, S. H. (2000). Effects of methylphenidate on sensitivity to reinforcement in children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: An application of the matching law. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 33, 573–591.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Nevin, A., Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, R. (1982). Effects of group and individual contingencies on academic performance and social relations of special needs students. The Journal of Social Psychology, 116,41–59.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Odom, S. L., Strain, P. S., Karger, M. A., & Smith, J. D. (1986). Using single and multiple peers to promote social interactions of preschool children with handicaps. Journal of the Division of Early Childhood, 10, 53–64.Google Scholar
  46. O'Neill, R., Horner, R., Albin, R., Sprague, J., Storey, K., & Newton, J. (1997). Functional assessment and program development for problem behavior(2nd ed.). New York: Brooks?Cole.Google Scholar
  47. Peterson, L. D, Young, K. R., West, R. P., & Peterson, M. H. (1999). Effects of student self-management on generalization of student performance to regular classrooms. Education and Treatment of Children, 22(3), 357–372.Google Scholar
  48. Roca, J. V., & Gross, A. M. (1996). Report-do-report: Promoting setting and setting-time generalization. Education and Treatment of Children, 19(4), 408–424.Google Scholar
  49. Rutter, M. (1982). Psychological therapies in child psychiatry: Issues and prospects. Psychological Medicine, 12, 723–740.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Sasso, G. M., Melloy, K. J, & Kavale, K. A. (1990). Generalization, maintenance, and behavioral covariation associated with social skills training through structured learning. Behavioral Disorder, 16(1), 9–22.Google Scholar
  51. Skinner, C. H., Cashwell, T. H., & Skinner, A. L. (2000). Increasing tootling: The effects of a peermonitored group contingency program on students' reports of peer's prosocial behaviors. Psychology in the Schools, 37(3), 263–270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Solomon, R., & Wahler, R. (1973). Peer reinforcement control of classroom problem behavior. Journal of Applied Behavioral Analysis, 6, 49–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Sterling-Turner, H. E, Robinson, S. L, & Wilczynski, S. M. (2001). Functional assessment of distracting and disruptive behaviors in the school setting. School Psychology Review, 30, 211–226.Google Scholar
  54. Stokes, T. F, & Baer, D. M. (1977). An implicit technology of generalization. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 10(2), 349– 367.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Stokes, T. F, & Osnes, P. G. (1989). An operant pursuit of generalization. Behavior Therapy, 20, 337–355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steven W. Evans
    • 1
  • Joshua Langberg
    • 1
  • Jeff Williams†
    • 1
  1. 1.James Madison UniversityHarrisonburgVrginia

Personalised recommendations