Testing the Impact of the Whole-Day Good Behavior Game on Aggressive Behavior: Results of a Classroom-Based Randomized Effectiveness Trial

Holly C. Wilcox, Hannos Petras, Hendricks C. Brown, Sheppard G. Kellam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Three generations of developmental epidemiologically based randomized field trials of the Good Behavior Game (GBG) have been delivered to Baltimore elementary schools. With the collaboration of family and community partners, all three trials were directed at decreasing proximal targets of aggressive behavior and improving learning in first-grade classrooms with distal mental health and substance abuse outcomes. GBG is a group-contingent classroom behavior management strategy that promotes classmate/peer concern for each child's positive behavior by rewarding teams with below-criterion levels of aggressive, disruptive behavior. GBG targets early risk factors for the above distal outcomes: aggressive, disruptive behavior, family/school relationships, and school failure. Here, we report on the third-generation randomized prevention trial of the GBG (whole-day first grade program (WD)), including 12 elementary schools. WD enhanced the standard curriculum in the areas of classroom behavior management; academic instruction, particularly reading; and family–classroom partnerships. Using a within-school classroom randomized trial design, we: 1) evaluate the effectiveness of the WD program by sex and cohort and 2) measure variation in WD impact by the quality of teachers' behavior management practices. Data from 961 first graders were used in general growth mixture modeling that accounts for classroom randomization to identify distinct developmental trajectories of aggressive, disruptive behavior and GBG impact on these trajectories. In the chronic high aggression trajectory of males, ratings of aggression after WD implementation and to the end of third grade were significantly lower in the WD condition than in controls in classrooms with a higher WD dosage (Cohort 2) and especially in classrooms with higher quality of WD implementation. For females, we found a modest but significant benefit of GBG in the low trajectory class when cohorts were combined. Regarding policy implications, embedding GBG into the curricula in teacher's colleges could better support student learning and behavior. Clinical Trials Registration number: NCT00257088.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)907-921
Number of pages15
JournalPrevention Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • Aggressive Behavior
  • Good Behavior Game
  • Implementation
  • Primary Prevention
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Universal Prevention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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