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Effectiveness of school-based mental health playgroups for diagnosable and at-risk preschool children

Risk factors during preschool years, such as poverty and unattended social/emotional problems, are known to have a strong negative influence on children's later functioning. This study aimed to investigate the effectiveness of an on-site integrated school-based mental health services and consultation program for preschool children and their families. The sample consisted of 47 children and parents in 3 childcare centers who came from low-socioeconomic, urban backgrounds. Parents provided questionnaire data on children's social-emotional functioning at 2 assessment times. Children's ages ranged between 2 and 4 years at Time 1. Approximately half of the sample consisted of children who were selected for and received twice-weekly peer play psychotherapy (PPP) and, at-times, other mental health services from clinicians (playgroup [PG] children). The other half of the sample consisted of better functioning non-playgroup (NPG) children from the same centers. When PG and NPG were compared at Time1, the PG children were significantly behind the NPG children justifying their assignment to PG. However, at Time 2, the difference between PG and NPG was no longer significant on vital measures of adaptation, revealing the ways in which Relationships for Growth & Learning (RfGL) Program arguably led to 'catch up'. PG children's behavioral problems and total symptomatology decreased significantly from Time 1 to Time 2. Higher dosage of PPP was linked with higher social competence and decreased behavioral problems. Areas of gain differed between internalizing and externalizing children, indicating that intervention was helpful to different types of children. Clinical and research implications were discussed. (author abstract)
Resource Type:
Reports & Papers
United States

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