Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version



A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of the Graduate College at the University of Nebraska in Partial Fulfillment of Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Psychology, Under the Supervision of Professor David J. Hansen. Lincoln, Nebraska: July, 2011

Copyright 2011 Christopher Campbell


Empirical studies indicate that as many as 35% of Head Start children meet the diagnostic criteria for oppositional defiant disorder or conduct disorder (Webster-Stratton & Hammond, 1998). Without early intervention, these problematic behaviors may become stable across childhood and adolescence (Campbell, 1995), increasing the likelihood of academic problems, school drop-out, substance abuse, delinquency, and violence (Snyder, 2001). Head Start children are also more likely to enter school with significant deficits in social-emotional readiness, with a many as 40% demonstrating delays in social competencies and communication abilities (Kaiser et al., 2000). Longitudinal research indicates that early gaps in social competence for socioeconomically challenged children persist and even widen as children progress in school (Huffman, Mehlinger, & Kerivan, 2001), and conduct problems become increasingly resistant to change over time (Webster-Stratton, Reid, & Hammond, 2001). Thus, intervention efforts to ensure children’s competence across social and behavioral domains must begin as early as possible; ideally within the preschool years (Mashburn & Pianta, 2006).

The primary objective of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of an empirically-based and short-term teacher intervention - Teacher-Child Interaction Training Preschool Program (TCIT-PRE). The TCIT-PRE program was designed to improve social and behavioral competence for preschool children, and increase efficacy and satisfaction for preschool teachers. Participants were six teachers and 101 children (and their caregivers) from three Head Start Centers. Overall, research findings indicated that: (a) Head Start teachers were able to acquire and master the TCIT-PRE skills with individual and small groups of children during training sessions; (b) TCIT-PRE skills acquired in the training room generalized to the classroom environment; (c) the utilization of TCIT-PRE skills by Head Start teachers was associated with improved social and behavioral competence for Head Children, both in the classroom and at home; and (d) the TCIT-PRE program was well received by Head Start teachers, many of whom reported increased efficacy and satisfaction after completing the program. Implications for early childhood intervention programs and future directions for the TCIT-PRE program are discussed.

Advisor: David J. Hansen