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Cognitive Skills Focused Curriculum may Lessen Kids' Behavioural Problems

A recent research has found that curriculum focused on cognitive skills may improve child behaviour.

According to a recent study in Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences children who were taught a curriculum that focused on self-discipline and consideration of their own and others' emotions were found to display greater social competence and less behavioural and emotional problems.

The study showed that when teachers taught a particular curriculum to students for 20-30 minutes-per-day, three times-per-week over a six-month period, lower rates of violent behaviour and anxiety/sadness were seen when evaluated a year later compared to children randomized to normal classroom procedures.

"Several complex cognitive processes, such as the ability to cope in stressful situations, are related to the development of the prefrontal areas of the brain starting in the preschool years. We know that deficiencies in the function of these lobes are linked to problems like aggression, depression and attention disorders," says study author Mark Greenberg.

Therefore, the Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies (PATHS) curriculum, which stimulates cognitive and emotional skills, enhances the child's aptitude to tackle stress and make good choices.

Greenberg offers an example of a simple PATHS skill that helps children comprehend and identify feelings in others.

"Children use 'feeling faces' cards throughout the day to indicate clearly to others what emotions they are experiencing. By labeling the emotions clearly, children learn to recognize them in themselves and others, which will aid them in managing those emotions," says Greenberg.

The main advantage of this curriculum is its defensive nature. Rather than focusing on treating negative behaviours after they have become steady and disturbing, PATHS provides children with coping strategies to stop the development of behavioural and emotional difficulties.

This study entitled "Promoting Resilience in Children and Youth. Preventative Interventions and Their Interface with Neuroscience" is published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences: Resilience in Children.


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