American Institutes for Research
Evidence Base

Evidence Base

The Good Behavior Game was tested in 41 classrooms in 19 elementary schools with two groups of first graders.   Students in these classrooms were followed up periodically to study the immediate, mid- and long-term effects of the game.

The Good Behavior Game’s Strong Evidence Base

The Good Behavior Game was tested with 1st and 2nd grade classrooms in Baltimore City, MD beginning in the 1985-1986 school year. The trial was implemented in 41 classrooms in 19 elementary schools with two groups of first graders. Experts followed up with students in these classrooms periodically to study the immediate, mid- and long-term effects of the game. The results from this trial showed positive outcomes for students and teachers.

  • Elementary Schools

    Male students who entered the first grade displaying aggressive behavior had reduction in:

    • Aggressive and disruptive behavior

    • Off-task behavior

  • Middle Schools

    Male students who entered the first grade displaying aggressive behavior had reduction in:

    • Aggressive and disruptive behavior

    • Off-task behavior

    • Delay in age of first smoking

    • Use of mental health services

  • Young Adulthood

    Males at ages 19-21 had a reduction in:

    • Use of school based services for problems with mental health or use of tobacco/alcohol

    • Illicit drug use/dependence disorder
      Alcohol use/dependence disorder

    • Tobacco use

    • Antisocial personality disorder

Research on the Good Behavior Game Shows Positive Outcomes

Since the first study in Baltimore City, the Good Behavior Game has been studied using randomized trials in multiple locations in the U.S. and abroad. Results from these trials support the findings from the first Baltimore City trial.

Selected Outcomes from Baltimore Trial at Young Adulthood (age 19-21)Good Behavior Game ClassroomsStandard Program ClassroomsRisk Reduction
Use of School-Based Services for Problems with Behavior, Emotions, or Drugs or Alcohol
  • Males highly aggressive, disruptive in first grade
17% 33% 48%
Lifetime Illicit Drug Abuse/Dependence Disorder
  • All Males
  • Males highly aggressive, disruptive in first grade
19%
29%
38%
83%
50%
65%
Lifetime Alcohol Abuse/Dependence Disorder
  • All males and females
13% 20% 35%
Smoking 10 or more cigarettes a day regularly
  • All males
  • Males highly aggressive, disruptive in first grade
7%
0%
17%
40%
59%
100%
Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD)
  • All males and females
  • Males highly aggressive, disruptive in first grade
17%
41%
25%
86%
32%
52%
Outcomes Baltimore City, MD (1990s) Eugene/Springfield, OR (1990s) Netherlands (2000s) Belgium (2000s)
Short-term
(Elementary)
Reduction in aggressive and disruptive behavior2 Reduction in aggression4 Reduction in attention deficit hyperactivity7 Reduction in aggressive and disruptive behavior, increase in on-task behavior, decrease in development of oppositional behavior9
Mid-term
(Middle)
Reduction in conduct disorder, school suspensions, use of mental health services, and smoking3 Delayed first police arrest, reduction in association with misbehaving peers, and delayed time to first patterned alcohol and marihuana use5 Reduction in physical and relational victimization, major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety and panic disorder, and use of tobacco8 NA
Long-term NA Reduction in use of tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs6 NA NA

Return on Investment

Early prevention pays off in the forms of reduced health care costs and increased earnings for participants. The mid- to longer-term potential benefits of the game for individuals and broader society in the U.S. has been estimated by The Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP), an independent research organization. According to their study based on cost and benefit data from the state of Washington, the net benefit of implementing the Good Behavior Game was $4,790, the benefit to cost ratio (benefits divided by cost) was $31.19 and the rate of return on investment was 25%.

For more information, read Return on Investment: Evidence-Based Options to Improve Statewide Outcomes.

  • $31.19 For every dollar spent, you save

  • 25% Rate of Return on Investment

Evidence Based Intervention Registries

As a result of its strong evidence base, the Good Behavior Game is nationally and internationally recognized and cited by multiple registries rating behavioral, mental health and substance abuse interventions. All interventions in these registries have been assessed and rated independently for quality of research evidence and implementation materials.

References

  • 1 Special supplemental issue of Drug and Alcohol Dependence about the Good Behavior Game: Effects on Universal Classroom Behavior Program in the First and Second Grades on Young Adult Outcomes. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, Volume 95, Suppl. 1, June 2008.

    2 Ialongo, N.S., et al., 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 27:599–641.

    3 Ialongo, N., et al., 2001. The distal impact of two first-grade preventive interventions on the conduct problems and disorder in early adolescence. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders 9:146–160.

    3 Storr, C.L., et al., 2002. A randomized controlled trial for two primary school intervention strategies to prevent early onset tobacco smoking. Drug and Alcohol Dependence 66:51–60.

    3 Furr-Holden, C.D.M., et al., 2004. Developmentally inspired drug prevention: Middle school outcomes in a school-based randomized prevention trial. Drug and Alcohol Dependence 23:149–158.

    3 Petras, H.; Masyn, K.; and Ialongo, N., 2011. The developmental impact of two first grade preventive interventions on aggressive/disruptive behavior in childhood and adolescence: An application of latent transition growth mixture modeling. Prevention Science, 12(3), pp. 300-313.

  • 4 Reid, J.B., et al., 1999. Description and immediate impacts of a preventive intervention for conduct problems. American Journal of Community Psychology 27:483–517.

    4 Stoolmiller, M.; Eddy, J.M.; and Reid, J.B., 2000. Detecting and describing preventive intervention effects in a universal school-based randomized trial targeting delinquent and violent behavior. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 68:296–306.

    5 Eddy, J.M., et al., 2003. Outcomes during middle school for an elementary school-based preventive intervention for conduct problems: Follow-up results from a randomized trial. Behavior Therapy 34(4):535–552.

    5 Eddy, J.M., et al., 2005. The Linking the Interests of Families and Teachers (LIFT) prevention program for youth antisocial behavior: Description, outcomes, and feasibility in the community.

    5 Reid, J.B., and Eddy, J.M., 2002. Preventative efforts during the elementary school years: Linking the Interests of Families and Teachers (LIFT) project. In J.B. Reid, G.R. Patterson, J. Snyder (eds.), Antisocial Behavior in Children and Adolescents: A Development Analysis and Model for Intervention. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, pp. 219–233.

    6 DeGarmo, D.S., et al., 2009. Evaluating mediators of the impact of the Linking the Interests of Families and Teachers (LIFT) multimodal preventive intervention on substance use initiation and growth across adolescence. Prevention Science 10(3):208–220.

  • 7 van Lier, P.A.C., et al., 2004. Preventing disruptive behavior in elementary schoolchildren: Impact of a universal classroom-based intervention. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 72:467–478.

    8 van Lier, P. A. C.; Huizink, A.; and Crijnen, A., 2009. Impact of a preventive intervention targeting childhood disruptive behavior problems on tobacco and alcohol initiation from age 10 to 13 years. Drug and Alcohol Dependence 100(3):228–233.

    8 Witvliet, M., et al., 2009. Testing links between childhood positive peer relations and externalizing outcomes through a randomized controlled intervention study. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 77(5):905–915.

    8 Vuijk, P., et al., 2007. Testing sex-specific pathways from peer victimization to anxiety and depression in early adolscents through a randomized intervention trial. Journal of Affective Disorders 100:221–226.

    8 van Lier, P. A. C.; Huizink, A.; and Crijnen, A., 2009. Impact of a preventive intervention targeting childhood disruptive behavior problems on tobacco and alcohol initiation from age 10 to 13 years. Drug and Alcohol Dependence 100(3):228–233.

    9 Leflot, G., et al., 2010. The role of teacher behavior management in the development of disruptive behaviors: An intervention study with the Good Behavior Game. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 38(6):869-882.